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Alum Testifies…How AUN Saved Me
My days at Plano West Senior High School on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas, in the United States, were bittersweet. During what should have been my senior year in the year 2000, I had already left school to work full time.
My adolescent years, filled with uncertainty and the proverbial rebellion that most teens go through, took me to the county jail and back by age 17. Growing up in white suburbia and being born in the inner city, I consider myself a well-rounded character – I can go anywhere and survive, and I mean anywhere.
By the time 23 rolled around, I had worked more than enough low-paying jobs and had enrolled in two career-colleges – both of which added no value to my life and only put me in debt.
When I returned home to Dallas (the city that raised me) in 2006, after living and working in Houston for a year and a half, I had no education and my job prospects were growing dimmer as months went by. I continued cleaning and serving in fast-food restaurants.
In my short time here on earth, I have taken orders at dry-cleaning companies, worked dozens of sales jobs in call centers from Dallas to Houston to Melbourne, Florida, selling everything from cleaning products to credit cards to internet and phone services; I’ve gone door-to-door selling products no one wanted, worked at convenience stores, and done just about any work I could find.
I even managed to excel to a supervisory position, one that I could not maintain, due to what was considered the dawn of Houston’s nightlife, of which I was a part, doing club promotions, but definitely doing more partying than promoting.
All of these experiences made me stronger and have given me a view of life that many students would have a hard time comprehending – this is an outlook that is typical in America, by the way, where people working and going to school is a norm.
Working several dead-end jobs allowed me to realize that in order to reach my full potential, I needed to not only get a degree, but also do it in a place that was outside of my comfort zone. I needed a place where I could discover “me”.
At that point, it was not about getting a better job. It was about getting better me. Learning and growing was where my sights were set. So I took my father up on his offer. After all, I had nothing to lose. He had moved to Nigeria during my sophomore year in high school.
Here I was, a 25-year-old returning to college (as I had promised myself), to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. After coming to Nigeria for the first time (totally away from my comfort zone, a new life indeed) and being in the country for nine months, I considered going to the United Kingdom for my degree. Then, I heard about the American University of Nigeria. One thing is for sure, if I had not come to AUN my college experience would be a different story.
For starters, I would have ended up in a place that would have never allowed me to expand my horizons, so to speak, and I would possibly owe Sallie Mae – a US government-funded agency that offers student loans — more than I do today.
Instead, before the August 2008 semester rolled around, I was a student at AUN. Wondering if I was getting what I bargained for, I spent my first few months in Yola not knowing exactly what to expect, not to mention that my first two years, I was still thinking I was in white suburbia.
Then, boom, it hit me. In 2010, I met Dr. Sundjata ibn Hyman, the AUN professor who altered my thinking and my whole thought process. He made me see myself in a way that I had never imagined, showing me why education is more than just books and grades. I became a better writer, better listener, better thinker and, ultimately, a better person.
It is very difficult to say where I would be if AUN had not saved me from myself. Our world is filled with challenges that many times make our best efforts seem like a hit-and-miss and sometimes it feels like we are in a maze that keeps us going in circles. KRS-One’s “Self Destruction” comes to mind, because for a long time, that is where I was headed.
While I will never be apologetic for what I refer to as the wasted years, I do wonder how life would have gone if I had enrolled in college at the age of 17 like the rest of my friends. Then again, I know AUN would have never found me.
I have received the best deal possible here at AUN. Students, professors, custodians and even maintenance workers have all made my time here at AUN unforgettable and enjoyable. I have forged relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds, learning more about myself along the way. Friends like Emem Otuokon and Patience Ishaya introduced me to slang and colloquialisms often used in ‘naija’ and more.
I will always believe that AUN is for those of us who needed to unlock our true potential or discover where our passion lies. I am more than thankful. I know what a life devoid of education means, I understand what working menial jobs without an education can do to morale, and I have learned more about what I am made of right here in the middle of nowhere – who knew?
By Olumide Oyekan, Class of 2012