‘How I earned first class honours in UK varsity’
Twenty-year-old Aanuoluwapo Adesina was the cynosure of all eyes at the graduation ceremony of Coventry University, United Kingdom in July this year. He bagged a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with First Class Honours in English and Creative Writing.
The young Nigerian, who is also a writer, poet and online comedian/dramatist, in this interview with IYABO LAWAL speaks of how the commitment and labour of his literature teacher in secondary school and the love of his university lecturer-parents transformed him from an average to an ‘A’ class student.
Adesina is now a teaching assistant at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, where he is studying for a Master of Arts degree in a Professional Writing Programme.
My SS teacher, parents’ love, sacrifice made the difference, says 20 year-old Aanuoluwapo Adesina
You had your initial schooling in Nigeria and your parents teach in Nigerian Universities, why a foreign university to go study?
Well, like you rightly said, I did have my initial schooling in Nigeria. Also, yes, my parents are also lecturers in Nigerian Universities. I would say that after my brief education in Oxford, at the primary level, I had become exposed to concepts and perspectives that I had hitherto not engaged in while in Nigeria. So, in my pursuit for quality education; one especially that would cater for my interest in writing, I decided to look beyond Nigeria.
What is your experience as an African student in Coventry and Kennesaw?
The issue of race always comes up in societies where a fair amount of its people is intolerant towards “outsiders.” In this regard, I would say I have had my share of racially charged acts. My overall experience as an African student both in the UK and America I would say was the peculiar air of apprehension under which one functioned.
Learnt you were just an average pupil until about your SS2 class in high school. At what point did you discover you had the potential to excel and decided to develop it. And what was the propeller?
Indeed, I was an average student. I think I had always felt comfortable knowing I was at least amongst the top 10-15 in the classroom, and never really saw the need to strive beyond that. My Literature teacher at the time, Mr. Bolarinwa had taken an interest in me, I suppose as he was of the opinion that I could do better than I was. He would give me extra exercises to do and gave me more severe punishments than my colleagues if I got a low grade. I think this helped develop a sense of responsibility, not only towards my work but also myself.
What will you say are the limiting factors for Nigerian students to excel academically within the country, when they tend to be outstanding abroad?
There are several issues I would say are responsible for this. First and foremost, I would say the socio-cultural makeup of Nigeria is one factor. It is usually the nature of most lecturers to create an aggressive sense of formality between themselves and students. Of course, this is due to our culture, which posits that the elders are more or less lords over the younger ones. In the case of foreign universities, much to my knowledge, they regard students as junior colleagues; encouraging participation and higher-level thinking. This relationship, in turn, creates a conducive learning atmosphere devoid of fear.
Another factor is the lack of development within the country. I believe that one aspires to replicate exploits done around him. You will agree with me that our youth don’t have much to pursue, as there aren’t many things that engage them intellectually. Science students see no ground-breaking experiments conducted, Literature students see and hear only of the writers of yore. They struggle to find where they fit in a society that has made no provision for them, nor recognises their importance. These are but among a myriad of issues that have plagued the success rates of our students at home.
What was your B.A dissertation on? And what informed the choice of the topic?
My dissertation was titled, “A creative analysis of reality in modern and postmodern short stories.” The title was borne out of my interest in the concepts of modernism and postmodernism. From the research I had done, I had found that modernism encouraged writers who adopted this form, the ability to identify certain areas of social norms, which they had come to disagree with in the course of engaging with society as a whole. Rather than get into a full-on lecture regarding both concepts, I shall focus more on modernism and how it contributed to the short stories I produced in partial fulfilment of my creative dissertation. I had come to Nigeria over the summer one year, as I usually did. It just so much as happened that during this time there was much discourse going on regarding tithing. I had engaged with different media sources; radio, newspapers, internet memes and the likes, to better grasp what the issue was. I had found that religious leaders had become adamant on retaining tithing as a major source of their income after it was deemed to be in jeopardy when people started questioning how those funds were used. Upon my return to England, I thought this issue had provided me with a rich source of inspiration that would lend itself well to the concept of modernism. I wrote “Dogma,” a short story, as a satire, which presented religion as a tool of mind control by religious institutions and the political class as I observed in the Nigerian state.
How easy was it graduating with a First-Class Honours in a predominantly white academic community?
I think we can both agree that achieving a first in any community comes with its unique challenges. I had already been given a robust literary foundation as well as a work ethic during my time at Adesina College, which helped me to develop a determination not to settle for less. I was the youngest of my peers; who were much older than me and had all done A levels before pursuing university education. There was a vacuum of knowledge I had felt in that regard. However, this soon quickly disappeared, as I was able to find my footing in good time.
What would you say are your success factors?
I would say listening, revising and applying feedback have been beneficial to me in all areas of my life.
You are a poet, writer and can I say dramatist too. How did you come about your creative talent?
I’m not entirely sure how, but I can say that we all have our innate abilities. For one, I can’t solve mathematical questions to save my life, yet I have a sister who is incredible at all activities that are maths related. So, in the same way, I’m better with words, and with many thanks to my parents who supported this and provided me funding to further develop my abilities I have been able to improve my writing significantly.
What inspires your writings?
When I first began writing, poetry was my preferred form. I felt it lent itself well to inexplainable emotions; as such concepts could be presented directly to the reader. My poetry usually deals with themes such as death, war, love, sadness, and betrayal. I just recently developed an interest in the short story form. In this form, I’ve dealt with violence, corruption, religion, and evil as themes. I wouldn’t say I have a specific audience, but I believe teenagers and adults would be able to relate better to my works, regardless of background.
The title of my first poetry collection and published work is “Emocean.” I had created the title as a pun for an ocean of emotions, describing the volatile nature of emotions as relatable to the temper of the sea.
How much did your family background influence your professional inclinations?
Having two parents who are academics was the first influence I had. From a young age, I had understood what their careers were and deemed it a great and dignifying profession. I remember in the days of my youth; I had always wanted to be my father; dress like him, talk like him, act like him as he represented my first contact with a university lecturer. Visiting both their offices when I was much younger exposed me to the respect that academics received; something I sought to have for myself. Ironically, I had always wanted to be a lecturer when I was little, but I had wanted to become an archaeologist. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what happened to that dream… I thank God for my parents, for this is indeed the most excellent investment parents could make. I appreciate their love, support, and sacrifices dearly.