Adetutu Falade is a 24-year-old first class graduate of microbiology from Crawford University. In this interview with Edugist, she shares her higher education experience, from her undergraduate study at Crawford University, to postgraduate at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Excerpts:
Please share with Edugist, a little about yourself and your background.
My name is Adetutu Falade. I am from Ondo state but resided in Lagos, up until my relocation to Aberdeen, Scotland for my master’s degree. I graduated with a first-class degree (4.70/5.00 CGPA) in Microbiology from Crawford University, Ogun state. I am the lastborn with two older siblings. I have been married for about 7 months.
Tell us more about your husband and how you met him.
My husband, Abraham Kolawole, and I attended Crawford and he was the overall best graduating student during our set in 2020. He studied computer science and he is currently working as a software engineer.
We started dating while we were both in 100 level. Traditionally, people felt it was a distraction but in truth it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, he is an integral part of my first class success story. I was able to thrive through his guidance and motivation to study whenever he noticed I had been distanced from my books.
Everyone, including lecturers, recognised us as couples throughout our undergraduate studies. I owe him my gratitude for graduating with a first class degree. His genius, effort and guidance are the major reasons why I was able to finish so well.
He taught me to be intentional, hold to faith and to set goals and stick to them. While we were both in 100 level, he mentioned to me almost jokingly that he wouldn’t mind being the overall best graduating student (BGS), and behold, he emerged as the BGS for our set in 2020.
Was there any motivating factor(s) that influenced your choice of discipline?
I actually wanted to study medicine and surgery. However, due to the level of competition for the programme, I had to settle for microbiology. The Nigerian system makes it feel like medicine and surgery, engineering and law are the only valid university programmes.
I am glad the narrative is now changing gradually as more people get acquainted with the immense opportunities across many other fields abound. Career orientation needs to be fostered in Africa, it is very important.
What was the most challenging course you did during your undergraduate study?
The challenging courses were more than one, though. But Immunology and Genetics took the crown. I also found statistics, physics and mathematics challenging at 100 level.
What was your overall undergraduate experience like?
I finished secondary school in 2014, but I didn’t go to university until two years later, in 2016. The delay was actually because my undergraduate study was intended to be done abroad, but that turned out to be impossible so I applied to Crawford.
As a result, when I entered the university, I was intentional about each and every move and action. I knew exactly what I wanted the whole time. I wanted to finish with a first class degree in order to avail myself of the opportunity to pursue postgraduate degree abroad, since the plan didn’t work out for undergraduate study. I was always in the library and focused on securing the degree with the best result possible, and I am glad it did happen.
The journey through undergraduate was not always smooth or rosy, but it was awesome to a large extent.
Do you prefer group study to self study?
Personally, I only did group studies during undergraduate years when there were cases when I had to take tutorial classes. I do not enjoy group study. That’s only if I have to teach someone. Fortunately I had coursemates who understood me. Group study is literally me teaching the class. It confuses me. I prefer self study.
Have you had any challenges with a lecturer in the past?
I have never had any issues with a lecturer in the past. I was always on every lecturer’s good side and that was deliberate. I was always intentional about answering questions in class. I knew and understood the advantages especially for furthering advanced studies.
Would you advise students to combine academics with other activities while on campus?
Yes, as long as they can strike a balance between the two. With my academic excellence, I maintained social relations and partook in extracurricular activities. For example, I took leadership positions, first, as vice-president, then in the year that followed, as president of my department’s association.
The most important thing is to learn to maintain a balance between academic and non academic activities.
My healthy and successful relationship with my husband right from 100 level is also a testament. I would rather say people should do what works for them best. Everyone knows what they can and cannot do. Use your areas of strength to your advantage because your areas of weakness are already at your disadvantage.
Have you been a recipient of any scholarship?
I did not receive any scholarship throughout my undergraduate study. But for my master’s degree, I got a partial scholarship called “Aberdeen Global Scholarship.”
It is a scholarship programme that deducts a partial sum from the tuition fee for eligible self-funded international postgraduate masters students. The scholarship is awarded to Nigerian and Ghanaian students.
Was there a point when you lacked anything during the course of your undergraduate study?
No, because there is quite a reasonable age gap between my siblings and me. So by the time I was in university, my siblings were already working. They were able to take care of me alongside my parents. Literally, I lacked nothing during the course of my undergraduate study.
Has the structure of your home and family dynamics influenced your success in any way?
My dad is a research fellow at Stellenbosch University, South Africa and the London School of Economics where he received his doctorate degree in social psychology. My mom is a master’s degree holder, likewise, my elder sister who is a pharmacist with a master’s degree in digital marketing. So, as you can see, I would say yes. My family’s background has had a huge influence on my career path and choice.
For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grades like yours, what would you advise them?
My advice to students who wish to graduate with outstanding grades is to know certainly what they want from the start. During my time in Crawford, there were students who didn’t start so well, they struggled through second, third years, till final year and graduation.
By the time they wanted to sit up right, they couldn’t get to the 4.50 cumulative grade point average (CGPA) mark due to the bumpy foundation. Everyone wants a first class degree but not so many put in the efforts right from the start, That is what I have noticed.
Also, stick to God. There were many hiccups and challenges but God showed up. He always does. And pray like there’s no tomorrow.
Do you think your grades are giving you any major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades?
Yes, and that is because I’m going back to school for my postgraduate study. In academia, grades are advantageous, but for work and industry, not so much. It is quite unfortunate that the Nigerian work sector is for the most part all about who you know, while only a few other times does it work on merit. In such an instance, grades may be at a disadvantage.
Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?
There are many people I cannot forget in my first-class feat, starting with my parents and husband, whose immense contribution will never go unappreciated. Then my lecturers, friends, and workers in the student fellowship. Almost everybody I have come in contact with during my undergraduate years has contributed in a way or the other to my first-class feat. So I won’t take the glory all to myself.
How do you find your new environment on a new continent?
I am finding the environment habitable and hospitable. Aberdeen is a small town with a reasonable cost of living expenses compared to, say, London or Edinburgh. That is why my husband and I chose this place. We travelled together to that effect. We left Lagos, Nigeria on 31 December, 2022 and arrived in Aberdeen, Scotland 1 January, this year. It has been awesome so far.
What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of Nigeria’s higher education system?
I think to improve Nigeria’s higher education system, the government needs to work on persistent industrial strike actions. For example, in private universities, 4 years is 4 years. The strike actions are not encouraging for public university students. It is causing massive delays in people’s lives.
The government should work on equipment and facilities, and a conducive environment comfortable enough for learning. Also, they should provide jobs for youths and graduates after school. Lots of people are going into fraud which may be an aftereffect of the rot in the education system. There should be provision of jobs and resources. For instance, let’s be honest, there are virtually no jobs available for microbiology graduates in Nigeria. You will end up not working in the field if you remain in the country so these are the challenges the government needs to address.
After receiving your master’s degree, will you consider a career in academia or industrial experience?
I am open to more opportunities, hopefully I can secure a doctorate degree afterwards and thereafter a position at a research institute. I am currently enrolled in a career mentorship program where I am assigned to an expert in academic research and development in my field of study for career guidance.
Likewise, I have options in industrial experience, like securing a position in a hospital or industries related to food, agriculture, soil and fertilisers, microbiology organisation and genetics laboratories. In all, I am considering every possibility. I do not plan to stay fixated, remember I am just 24 years old (smiles).