The best graduating student from the Faculty of Science, University of Ibadan, in the 2013/2014 academic session, Obidiegwu Chibuike, 22, graduated with a 6.5/7.0 CGPA to emerge as the best. He shared his experience in an interview with a Punch correspondent.
How easy was it to graduate with a first class, especially in Computer Science?
It was not really difficult for me. I set my mind on a goal and manipulated events around me to achieve it.
What attracted you to the course initially?
When I was leaving secondary school, I was attracted to anything related to digital engineering. So I had an open mind about the course I would like to pursue as an undergraduate. I made up my mind to study computer science after a brief discussion with my dad on the subject, where we analysed the technology industry and saw that the growth of the software industry was quite exponential. So, we figured that studying computer science would put me in a strategic point in the market. Also, a friend of mine, Chude Emeke, gave me a simple analogy that finally influenced my choice. He made a statement that fascinated me, he said, “A single piece of hardware could work with billions of softwares.” With that, my mind was made up. So, it was not a difficult choice to make. My parents’ support was awesome too.
Which other course could have appealed to you if you didn’t get this?
One course I would have loved to study if I didn’t get computer science was petroleum engineering. Not because I find it more interesting though, it is because of the more money I could make afterwards. Another course I would have also loved is psychology. I sometimes wish I could have a chance to have a second degree in that field because I strongly believe that with a deep knowledge of human interaction and thought patterns, the level of automation and intelligence that would be put into software would increase drastically. But my dream as a young child was to be a catholic priest.
How was your performance from your elementary school till you gained admission to the university?
I wasn’t always at the top of my class then, but I steadily improved over the years. In secondary school, I led my class for the first time in our final exams in SS2, and in the university, I didn’t lead my class until after my first year. I didn’t have problem with my WASSCE and UTME and my admission into the University of Ibadan was very smooth. I applied and was invited for an interactive session. It was right there that they congratulated me for getting the admission because of my performance. It was very transparent.
Which part of your course did you love most, and which part did you find challenging?
I loved programming and algorithms. The lecturer that introduced us to the concept of programming, Dr. B. O. Akinkunmi, made it so relatable. All the parts of the course challenged me because I tried not to dwell at the surface of what was taught, I dug deep into the courses and tried to understand and mastered the concepts. So, my performance from the start was very good.
But some people run away from Computer Science because they feel it’s hard. Is it truly hard?
Computer science is not hard, from my point of view. It could be very abstract but other sciences also share that element. So, I believe it is a thing of the mind.
Particularly, some people have fears for the programming aspect of the course. Is it as hard as people make it look?
Programming could be hard at the beginning but gets easy once you get the basics. I was able to cope with most of my courses because of the mindset I had. I always told myself that if I didn’t understand a concept, then I had to try harder. For the programming aspect, my foundation was very strong and I took my mathematics courses seriously.
What did you do differently to have such an outstanding result?
I didn’t limit my knowledge to what was taught in class or what the lecturer wanted us to know. I also asked a lot of “whys?” and “hows?” That way, I was able to build a mental model of concepts, thereby making it easy to recall and use concepts and techniques.
When did you start leading your class?
It was from my second year, and that was about my happiest moment. However, the driving force for me was an award that was given to the best student in my class after our first year, so, I worked harder.
You had such an impressive performance. Do you still remember all your GPAs from 100L to 400L?
I remember all of them. My school uses a 7.0 grade point, so, in my 100L, I had 6.1 GPA and 6.1 CGPA; in 200L, I had 6.7 GPA and 6.4 CGPA; in 300L I had 6.9 GPA and 6.5 CGPA and in 400L, I had 6.4 GPA and 6.5 CGPA. So, I had first class throughout and my lowest grade was in my first year, which was 6.1/7.0. After that result in 100L, I set a goal for myself and I achieved it. Expectedly, I was happy and my family members have been very proud of me since then. They talk about it at the slightest of opportunities. Also, it tells me there is more to achieve. My father has always been encouraging me and he tells me every time how proud he is of me.
Did you take any major decision(s) when you got to school that helped you eventually?
Yes. I wanted to do something for myself and be acknowledged by my peers. That was what pushed me to want a first class in the first place. I also felt somehow oppressed in school because I am from a humble background, and I like to enjoy myself, but I didn’t have enough money to do that. So, I thought to make up for that by being very outstanding in life through an excellent academic record. I also believe that I would not have pushed myself so hard if I was from a wealthy home.
Would you say you are a genius or you were a product of hard work?
I do not believe in the concept of genius. Everybody puts some effort to achieve something, either knowingly or unknowingly. It is just that some things come easily to some people just as the concept of programming came easily to me. Then, the circumstances I found myself coerced me into being serious and I also drove myself because I wanted success.
Talking about your days as an undergraduate, what was your typical day like?
My day was basically made up of lectures, group discussions, video games and hanging out with friends. I spent just about two hours reading everyday because I am not very good at reading for so long and the best time for me to read was immediately I woke up in the morning. The bulk of my knowledge came from group discussions, tutorials and meeting colleagues to explain things. However, the study-related things I could do for hours were programming and solving math questions. I can program for more than 12 hours at a stretch. However, I love sleeping, and I slept for about seven hours, which was never enough. I avoided reading in the middle of the night because it didn’t work well for me. Although there were some extreme cases where I had to, but I avoided it as much as possible.
How frequently did you use the library if you did at all?
Somehow I felt going to the library was a waste of my time, so, I read in my room most of the time. I can count the number of times I used the library and it was either because I needed light or to assist someone with something there. I was also lucky to have good roommates.
During exams, what was your schedule like in terms of reading, sleeping and possibly going out with friends?
During exams, I held a lot of tutorials during the day, read a little (as I would have tried to cover up most of the syllabus before the exams period) and in the evenings, hang out with friends that still had time to spare. It was difficult getting friends to hang out with at such times because they would all be busy with their books.
How social were you in school?
I was a very social person. I met a lot of people, went to parties and had girlfriends. I did all those to maintain a balance and show that it was possible to be very good at whatever you want to do without being one-sided.
What major challenge did you face?
My major challenge in school was money, as there was not much to spend.
What are your plans and aspirations?
My future plan is to make more money than I can spend and my aspiration is to become a notable computer scientist in the world.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not do?
I wish I had my own car but couldn’t.
As a graduate of computer science, what would you like to contribute to your field?
I would like to build softwares that make life easier for people and at the same time put the Nigerian technology industry on the world map.
Where would you like to work?
My dream company is Google. I love everything Google. From their culture, to working environment and an opportunity to build solutions that serves billions of people. In addition, it would avail me an opportunity to build myself and work with smarter people from all around the globe.
What is your advice to students?
My advice is for them to explore and discover themselves, and never to give up. No one said it was going to be easy.
SOURCE: THE PUNCH
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