Stride Radio

Bassey Colette Offiong emerged the only First Class student in the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Calabar, thereby, breaking a 44-year-old record. In this interview by ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, she speaks about how she achieved the feat despite being pregnant, her life in school, among others.

You were heavily pregnant when you wrote one of your examinations, how were you able to dedicate your time to attending classes and reading despite the stress pregnant women go through?

I was heavily pregnant when I wrote my second semester third year examination, just before my final year. For that, I will just have to go religious and thank God for strength, it was not easy. I remember carrying that pregnancy for close to 10 months. It was not easy but I was determined, I was hungry, I wanted it badly, so nothing was going to stop me. If you want something badly, the things around you that may seem to limit you will not limit you, they will just add additional stress but you can still get the work done because as women, God gives us this strength that cannot be explained. So I thank God for strength.

Did you know you were going to finish with a first class?

My CGPA was consistently high, so I had an idea. Things got a bit rough in between so I was worried I might not be able to keep up with my grades but God kept seeing me through and the work I put in kept paying off and it came out good, so yes, I had an idea I was going to finish with a first class.

For you to have finished with a first class, that means you have always had high grades from your first year, how did you do it? Was it easy?

The key is consistency. From my very first year-first semester, my very first result, I had maintained the same pace. No, it was not easy, I just had to suck it up and put in the work. There is no two ways about it; you have to put in the work. You can pray from heaven to earth, if you don’t work, you will not get the desired result.

Why did you choose to study Linguistics and Nigerian Languages? Or was it an accident?

To be honest, at first, it was my husband that encouraged me because I speak Italian language, so he felt that studying language would be good for me. So when I looked into the course, I found it interesting but when I got into the department proper, I fell in love with it. So, first it was my husband’s push before I researched about the course and then fell in love with it.

Tell us your most memorable moment while in school

I’ve had several memorable moments, but to highlight one, it was when I received my first award. It was a scholarship from the Chinese government. They picked people that were high flyers across different department and offered them scholarships and gave them awards. The other highlight was becoming a mother and juggling my business, motherhood, being a wife, and being a student together. I just love all the experiences I’ve had.

No one has ever graduated with a first class in your department. How do you feel breaking the 44-year-old record?

Honestly, putting my feelings into word is a difficult task, but I would say I am just overwhelmed, I am happy and sometimes, I don’t know how to feel because I cannot process it. It is crazy but I feel thankful because I prayed consistently and God listened and answered my prayers and did not let the fire quench. I feel like God did it for me because there were times you want to feel low or reluctant because you’ve had a long day or the kids were stressing you and there was a period my son wasn’t well so I was in the hospital taking care of him. In between, I still had to take my books to the hospital because of what I knew I wanted. There are sometimes you know you’ve earned few hours of sleep but you can’t because there is thing you need to get done. So after all these and getting the result I wanted, I can’t help but be thankful.

What were some challenging periods you had while in school and how did you overcome them?

It was when I had my son. It was pretty challenging juggling school when he wasn’t well and when he needs me. It was just a rollercoaster of many stressful moments but when you want something, there is no excuse. I thank God for my husband everyday and what he taught me is no excuses. If I give him a perfectly good excuse, it is no excuse to him. So that rubbed of on me. I’m pregnant is not an excuse, my child was sick is not an excuse, I’m tired is not an excuse. My business is not an excuse. Juggling everything was pretty stressful but it was rewarding.

Do you think your circle of friends influenced your grades?

No. I have very supportive people in my life, both friends and families, but I would not say they influenced my grades per se because they are from different walks of life. When I was in school, I had to live a lonely life because people won’t get it. You tell them you need to read and they will say “read what? You can read later.” And there’s nothing you can tell me that will take me away from wanting to study and doing the things I need to do to study. Because of this, I was kind of on an island. My friends were great and amazing but I was mostly on my own. I actually grew closer to people in my department that shared the same goals with me. I still had my friends but I just had to live a lonely life for some time. But I had my family and husband’s support.

Would you say having a family while schooling affected you or disturbed you? How were you able to juggle both?

It definitely added a layer of more things to do. I don’t want to use the word stressed because my family is very supportive and I would not even be here if my husband did not push me. So I wouldn’t say having a family affected me because I had a great support system who made sure I had every help I needed and when he couldn’t, my other family members, my sister, my in-laws always stepped in. My elder sister would even come over and babysit my children, so I had a great support system. I have a daughter who is older and she was my rock as well. I managed to juggle everything because I had a great family.

Moving forward, what is the plan now?

The plan is to not get distracted by the accolades but to keep pushing forward to make people around me proud, to make women proud, to make my family proud, to make my university proud and to make my hometown proud. I just have to keep pushing forward. I can’t really lay down all my plans here on this platform but my plan is to keep achieving and bagging all those awards and degrees all the way to the top.

What advice do you have for students who want to achieve great feats academically?

My advice for them is to be interested. Don’t see education as something you have to do to make your parents happy, you are doing it for yourself, because once you know what you are doing is for you, you are going to be interested. Whatever it is that you can do to build your interest in academics, do it. Once the interest is there, you can then put in the work to achieve what you want.

People don’t achieve a lot when there is no passion; passion is birthed from interest. Once the interest is there, you will care for that particular thing and see it through and will want it to do well. Just be focused, do what you have to do and you will succeed.

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