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‘Hiding your accomplishments diminishes you and what future generations think they can do’

Edidiong Bassey, a young scholar with an insatiable thirst for learning, stands as a shining example of academic excellence and perseverance.
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In the world of academia, there are individuals whose passion for knowledge and unwavering dedication set them on a path of remarkable achievements. Edidiong Bassey, a young scholar with an insatiable thirst for learning, stands as a shining example of academic excellence and perseverance. Having recently completed his PhD at the impressive age of 25, Edidiong’s journey in the realm of education is nothing short of inspiring.
Hailing from an academic background, Edidiong’s early exposure to the world of learning kindled a flame within him to make a profound impact in the field. From the outset, his academic prowess was evident, and he embarked on a journey to carve a niche for himself in the world of academia. In this exclusive interview with Edugist, Edidiong will unveil the untold stories of his academic journey. He shed light on the pivotal moments that pushed him to achieve greatness at such a tender age and the invaluable lessons he learned along the way. We are excited to present this extraordinary feature, showcasing the brilliance and resilience of Edidiong Bassey. His story is not just a tale of academic feats, but a testament to the power of determination, passion, and the pursuit of knowledge. Excerpts:
What motivated and inspired you to pursue your academic goals at such an early age?

The popular saying that “Children are great imitators, so give them something to imitate” is very applicableton to my situation. I was fortunate to have parents who took education very seriously, with my father being an academic himself, it came naturally to me to pursue academia and knowing very early that this was a path I wanted to pursue, it was easy to just focus on it to the detriment of everything else.

Throughout your academic journey, you mentioned being cautious about talking about your achievements. What factors influenced your decision to be more open about your accomplishments and why do you believe it is important to share your story with others?

I think it’s a classic case of imposter syndrome. For a very long time, despite my accomplishments, I was just very unsure of myself and would sometimes ask myself whether I was just lucky. It’s very hard to shake and something I still struggle with.

Furthermore, especially in the Nigerian context, we are a superstitious bunch and there is such a thing as unwanted attention if you know what I mean and I had no intention of being famous. So why the change of mind? I was reading something from a black woman and she was talking about how there are very few black role models because of the two issues I outlined above and that we have to realise that hiding your accomplishments not only diminishes you but also diminishes what future generations think they can do. I am still not interested in being famous, hence why I agreed to an interview with an education magazine but I want to hopefully target those interested in education to see that it is possible.

Can you share some of the challenges you faced during your PhD journey and how you overcame them?

Well,l I think you have to first start with the challenge of getting in. I was rejected by many universities the first year I applied but I persevered and waited another year and applied again despite the advice from some to shelve my academic aspirations for a professional career. It was a big risk and it could have blown up in my face but the second year, I applied to a few places, learning from my experience of rejection previously and I made revamped applications and got in.

For the PhD itself, I would say some of my biggest challenges were related to having to move to an entirely new country, Ireland for the programme. I had to adapt to the environment and navigate the social scene which was very challenging, especially as doing a PhD can be such a lonely endeavour but I had the support of my supervisor who was always very supportive and understanding and that helped. Ultimately, the only way to overcome such a challenge is to just be ready to step out of my comfort zone. Over my four years, I would say my relationship with Ireland has been a roller-coaster but I have no regrets.

What strategies or mindset helped you stay focused and motivated throughout the process?

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge and there were times that my mental health took a beating. However, I would say for, the most important thing that kept me grounded was simple, I liked what I was doing. I have always wanted to do a PhD and I was fascinated with my research topic, so that kept me going.

Another thing for me is having people who understand my situation that I could rely on. I was able to rely on a couple of friends who were also doing their PhD and that was helpful for me from time to time. Finally, I needed to give myself deadlines, a PhD is mostly independent study, so it could have been easy for me to get distracted and drift off, so it was important that I had deadlines (which were flexible) to keep me on my toes or I could easily have gone off the rails

As someone who has achieved great success academically, how do you believe your story can inspire and motivate other young individuals who are pursuing their academic aspirations? What advice or lessons would you like to share with them?

I think for Nigerians, doing a PhD can either seem too ambitious and therefore, above their capabilities or pointless especially at a young age due to the feeling they need to make money. However, I want to encourage those who are so inclined, that they should not feel that they need to be older or more financially secure to do a PhD, people should, if the circumstances permit, pursue what makes them happy and not listen to doubting Thomases who think they are going on a wild goose chase.

If you want to find a solution to big global challenges, for example, a cure for cancer or a solution to corruption, there is no need to wait, the only time you can control is the present. In terms of advice, I will give you two very broad ones that have been of immense help to me. The first is to stick to your guns – so many times in your life, you will be told, you don’t need to do this or this will not pay well et cetera but if you have the genuine conviction that this is what you want to do and not because of some outside influence, more often than not, God will help bring it to pass, generally because you will put in the work to make it possible.

The second is to not be afraid to seek help – this is still a challenge for me and as a Nigerian, often you are reluctant to seek help outside of your nuclear family and sometimes with good reason but I think as a whole, we should not suffer in silence. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask; if you are considering applying for a scholarship, talk to people who have; If you are having mental health difficulties, talk to someone. I cannot understate how many times I have spent days or weeks on a particular issue which I could have resolved rather quickly if I had spoken up earlier.

Looking back on your academic journey, what are some of the most significant triumphs or moments of personal growth that you experienced? How have these experiences shaped your perspective and goals for the future?

My biggest triumph was when I completed my certifications with my Chartered Accountancy Qualification (ICAN) being a particular standpoint. This was because my last diet (Professional level) was almost entirely self-taught and I had to study for it in a rural environment during my youth service under conditions that were less than ideal. I could have split it but I chose to do all five subjects at one go and thankfully, I passed. I would say that some of my biggest moments of personal growth was when I was rejected for a PhD, after my master’s and I had to spend a whole year wondering whether this trajectory was indeed for me.

It prompted a period of soul searching and I learnt from the experience. As far as the PhD, my biggest triumph was certainly getting published, the paper took over three years from the time of conception and at many points during that time, I wasn’t sure if the paper will see the light of day and it eventually did and in many ways, was a big validation for me that I could indeed do research that was seen as credible.

These experiences have shown me the importance of persistence which I think is an undervalued quality. I think other skills – loyalty, intelligence, teamwork, and leadership are rightly lauded but I think that ability to encounter adversity and stick through it is precious. I have learnt from this that I shouldn’t be afraid to do something, even if the circumstances are less than ideal. There is no need for me to go for the easiest, or ‘most logical’ choice if that’s not what my heart is telling me to do.

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