TO be the best once is hard enough; to repeat the feat the second time is, without a doubt, an attestation of sheer brilliance. But this is often a product of grit, focus and positive winning attitude. This is the story of 26-year-old Ifeoma Chinenye Onuike whose name has lately become a synonym for academic excellence at the Girne American University (GAU) in Cyprus.
She has just emerged the best graduating master’s degree student with a CPGA of 4.00. But what makes her story particularly exciting is that she was also the best graduating student in her undergraduate level at the university, with a CGPA of 3.99.
Ms Onuike told toktok9ja that her journey to that achievement had not been particularly smooth as there were times she wanted to quit.
“After my undergraduate (LLB) degree, I continued with my master’s programme. I was a bit anxious because of the benchmark I had already set in my undergraduate (level) not to fall. I was careful in writing my project, assignment and presentation; and to God be the glory, my master’s (I) set a different standard,” she enthused.
And what is her driving force? Other than God, whose plan she says she strives to live out, Ifeoma’s driving force and role models are her parents whom she describes as ‘pacesetters’
“I have mentors whom God placed in my life. They have not ceased to help shape my life,” she says.
She also spoke about her passion.
“I have always been passionate about Law. The profession fascinates me; it’s dynamic yet rigid. (It) has been the pillar on which societies of the world rest and I can’t help wanting to be part of it,” she says.
For Ifeoma, the road to this unfolding success had not been without its bumps. She had had to cope with the pain of losing people in the family dear to her heart; and she practically had to push back the trauma to focus on her academics.
In another interview with pulseng.com, Ms Onuipe recounts how while still in the secondary school she had to cope with the memory of losing her uncle who meant the world to her.
“In secondary school, I lost my uncle. He was really close to me. As a young girl, I could not wrap my head around it. That affected me in its own way,” she intoned.
According to her, her academic performance dipped at this moment, and, unfortunately, her teachers even lacked the required training to handle students grappling with such emotional pressures.
She said, “I had low self-esteem and my teachers did not make it any easy for me, especially the ones who knew me and my family. She (teacher) would call me to provide a solution to a question on the board; and if I didn’t get it right, she would attack me with words.”
It is strange how for some people, one negative experience seems to draw another. As if the loss of the uncle was not bad enough, she had barely settled down into her undergraduate studies when death wrenched her only brother away.
“I lost my only brother. That was one of my saddest experiences. And we were in the same school; so, most times, people would refer to me as ‘the sister of the boy that died’.”
This was a time she wished she had been successful at following and fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor; so that, perhaps, she would have been able to make all the difference in her brother’s life. But that was not to be, as her results could not secure her admission to study medicine.
“Growing up, I wanted to become a medical doctor. I loved the profession; I want to help people; to save lives; to treat people so that they don’t die and leave their loved ones in pain,” she said.
Ifeoma seemed to have channeled all these ‘negative’ experiences into a winning mental energy, as, according to her, she resolved to be the best in everything she does.
“I heard of Girne American University North Cyprus from a friend. I took interest in it because of 50 per cent scholarship. I was thrilled when I got the admission to study Common Law.”
The rest, they say, is history. Ifeoma has scaled all the hurdles life mounted in her way this far; but she is not done yet. She says she has her eyes on the PhD programme before Law School.