Juliet and Judith Agu, a set of twins from Imo State, who recently graduated with first class in Agronomy from the University of Ibadan, share their journey to success.
Agronomy is not regarded by many as a highly competitive course in Nigerian universities. Was it what you originally wanted to study?
Juliet: I originally wanted to study Medicine, but I couldn’t beat the cut-off mark, so I changed my course of study.
Judith: My first choice was Medicine and Surgery, but I also didn’t meet up with the cut-off mark. I was advised to apply for a change of course. So, I chose Agronomy.
What convinced you to choose Agronomy?
Juliet: Sincerely, throughout my days in secondary school up to the time I sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and the post-UTME, I never came across the course Agronomy. It was when I was told to apply for a change of course that I went through the list of available courses at UI and saw Agronomy. I did a little research about it and found out it’s all about agriculture. I decided to choose it because I believe that the agricultural sector is taking over the economy of this country.
Judith: When I saw the course on the list, I was inquisitive and I wanted to know about it. Also, I figured that since it was not a popular course, there was a high tendency that it would not be competitive in the labour market.
What kind of educational foundation did you have at primary and secondary school levels and how did it prepare you for what you achieved at the university?
Juliet: I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t although I sat for the UTME once. My UTME score was 235. Yes, my academic background at the primary and secondary school levels prepared me very well for higher education. I was taught everything I needed to know at that level and more. It wasn’t all about academics; extracurricular activities were included. I am really grateful to my teachers and the management of the schools I attended. Yes, I had excellent results at my primary and secondary school levels. I was always among the top three in my class to the glory of God. I had one A, six Bs, and one C in my Senior School Certificate Examination. I wasn’t really happy with my grades because I expected more, but I was glad that I cleared all my papers in one sitting.
Judith: It was also not easy for me to get admission into the University of Ibadan. On my first attempt, I was not offered admission. I scored 229 in the UTME. However, I will say that my academic background at the primary and secondary school levels prepared me well for higher education, because I attended one of the best schools in my area with outstanding teachers taking different subjects. I also had excellent results and was one of the top three pupils in secondary school. I had one A, five Bs, and two Cs.
What were the most daunting challenges you faced as a first-year student at UI?
Juliet: My first year was not easy at all. I faced a lot of challenges. One of which was the registration process. Others included adapting to the new environment, time management and attending lectures with over 100 students. The most difficult one was attending lectures in a hall with more than 100 students. It was a great challenge because I was not used to a crowd and I loved sitting in the front. I found myself leaving the hostel at 6.30am for an 8am lecture only to find the place locked. By the time it opened at about 7.30am, a lot of students were already waiting outside.
Most times, I got pushed aside because of my small stature and I found myself at the back. Once that happened, I knew that there was no difference between the person who didn’t attend the lecture that day and I. It was that bad but I later figured that there was a difference between being intelligent and being smart. To be frank, I was not smart that year. Those scenarios made a lot of people notice us as the twins who always left their hostel very early. So, when the first-semester results were released, some individuals checked ours before their own. They were disappointed though.
In what way?
Juliet: My experience affected my first semester results. I did not start well. I started with a 2:2 grade point average and that affected my cumulative grade point average every year.
Did you also have a difficult first year?
Judith: My first year was quite challenging because university life is so different from secondary school. The challenges I had to surmount included trying to blend into a new environment, making new friends, time management, and I also faced some financial challenges, but God came through and I surmounted all the challenges.
The most challenging was time management. I had to do my registration and attend lectures. Sometimes, I missed lectures just to complete my registration on time and settle down properly. It affected me academically, because when the tests and examinations began, I wasn’t ready; it looked like the semester was too fast. I had to start marathon reading to meet up.
Like some first year students do, did you set a goal for yourself at 100-level?
Juliet: Yes, I set a target for myself in my first year. My target was to start with a first class so that I could change my course of study back to Medicine. I was told that if I performed well, I would be allowed to move to Medicine. When my first semester results came out, I was not happy at all. I even cried because I knew it would be very difficult to change my course. However, I later fell in love with Agronomy.
Judith: In my first year my target was a distinction.
How did you improve your performance in the department, knowing that you did not meet your target in the first semester of your first year in school?
Juliet: At the university, I studied a lot. I started studying on the first day the lectures began. When I hear that people study for a few days for an exam, I feel shocked because I cannot relate to that. I didn’t study in the school library. I either read in my room or the hostel’s study room. I read overnight sometimes but in my hostel.
Judith: My best study time was overnight in the study room of my hall of residence.
What exactly did you do to ensure that your GPA did not drop below your expectation?
Juliet: To ensure that it did not drop but kept rising, I attended tutorials, prepared with past questions, engaged in group discussions and asked my course mates who knew better than I questions. I went as far as making my outstanding senior colleagues my mentors. Once a session came to an end, I collected their notes and past questions.
These people really contributed to my success story because anytime I called on them, they were always ready to help. I am tempted to mention their names, but I am sure they know themselves. I pray that God will bless them and they will never lack helpers all the days of their lives. Amen.
Judith: To ensure that my GPA did not drop, I remained focused and determined by avoiding distraction and setting a study timetable that I followed diligently. I was also prayerful and always asked God for direction before reading.
Juliet: I wasn’t the social type. My school life was more like a triangle; that is, from class to church then to the hostel. My twin sister and I were always walking together, so I guess guys found it difficult to approach us. In a nutshell, there were no distractions coming from guys because I set boundaries.
Your twin said she set boundaries to avoid distractions from guys. Did you do the same?
Judith: I avoided distractions by not being in a relationship. I saw a relationship as a big distraction and hindrance to achieving my goal.
How active were you at church and in social organisations?
Juliet: I was a member of the St Cecilia’s Student Choir and the vice-president of my department in my fourth year (2019/2020 session). I also joined a few committees in my hostel and department such as the academic committee, personality lecture planning committee, and the variety night planning committee. I started participating in these activities in my third year because I was already in first class. The challenge was just how to balance everything to ensure that my CGPA did not drop.
Judith: I was very active in church. I was a member of the St. Cecilia’s Student Choir of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Catholic Church. I was the general secretary of Queen Elizabeth II Hall at the university in the 2018/2019 session. I was the deputy chairman of the academic committee of my department in the 2017/2018 session. I was also a member of the personality lecture committee in my department.