About 4 score weeks or so ago, I enrolled in Ghana’s so called “premier university”. At the time, it was a mixture of excitement and disappointment. Like most people I know, the plan was to fly to America for undergrad studies. So while our compatriots slept during second and third year of high school (I was in the four year squad), we toiled the night away reading tomes of Barron’s, Princeton Review and Collegeboard SAT prep books. If you wonder why my choice of words is sometimes flummoxing, then you have those vocabulary cards to blame. In a nut shell, most of those dreams were curtailed either due to the humongous cost of tuition in the states or a stingy consular at the US embassy.
The frustration of not wearing a winter jacket and walking down a boulevard with palm trees and Starbucks coffee shops was suppressed when I got a text message from the admissions office of the University of Ghana. Obviously not an ivy league or some liberal arts college, the Legon (as the University of Ghana is affectionately called) did offer some trappings of a Hollywood depicted college. In fact almost every Ghanaian series or movie with a University scene in it was filmed on the Legon campus. Most famous is the good old “Sun city”. So I cheered myself up and prepared for life in Legon.
Detailing every single thing that has happened over the past 3 and a half years would be a bore. It actually could be long enough to be a script for a blockbuster movie so wait for all the nuances in my autobiography decades from now or a screenplay of my life acted by Abraham Attah in the next 20 or so years (that movie would sweep the Oscars so the world would not have to deal with a #OscarsSoWhite situation that year).
Fast forwarding this story will show glimpses of matriculation, countless scenes at the lecture halls, one of them with me dozing off in a geography class and the lecturer calling me out, hours spent on the basketball court either throwing air balls, pseudo-coaching from the lines or commentating on a game. There will be those debate moments were in my head I was speaking like Malcolm X but when the video was played back to me, I looked like a nervous Busta Rhymes on the stage for the first time.
The moments are countless and this piece could digress to a Kanye West megalomaniac rant. Let’s leave that for a day when I do not have anything to talk about. Final Year, Final Semester is about introspection. It is about reflecting back on courses we could have aced and those we failed. In a system which places premium on the “class” graduates achieve, grades seem to matter the most. So as I open my student account and gasp at my grade point average, the prospects of my future seem to be predicted by whether or not a 3 appears before the “point”.
Maybe Final Year, Final Semester is missing the point. Yes, getting a job with a fat salary is socially the most important thing once we take our final exams this semester. But we might be prioritizing the wrong things. A first class in isolation does not guarantee a job or a grad school admission and scholarship. So why miss out on the immeasurable experience the university presents us while you bury your head in your books 24/7?
If you do not struggle to fit your resume on a single page, then you are not doing something right. Play a sport for your hall of residence, join the debate society, become active in your campus religious organization, sell sobolo in your room, or write a cheesy article for your hall’s magazine. It might be a little late but if you have the opportunity, run for a portfolio in any organization you are remotely involved in. Even if you do not need to fill your resume, you will be amazed at the connections you will make. You might not believe it, but those faces you see in the food lines and campus shuttles are most likely the ones which will be plastered on the dailies and TV screens in a couple of years. They will be the one making the headlines and moving weight around the country.
Essentially, there is a lot to be learnt outside the confines of the lecture halls. The sum total of what I listed above and more equals an expansion of your educational experience. You do yourself a lot of favor by not limiting it to a lecture hall-dorm room experience. This expansion might not assure you a 9-5 job but if nothing at all, it will teach you that a 9-5 is not the only desirable thing.
4 years in Legon has gone by as quickly as a Lewis Hamilton in a Formula 1 race. Of course it was not all milk, honey and rainbow. There have been disappointments. Lives were lost, hearts have been broken, classes have been flunked and elections were rigged/lost. Some have even maintained the ominous 4-0 streak and that is what enriches our experience.
So to the class of 2016, let’s finish hard and kick ass while we are it.