Retracing my footsteps..pt 2
This blog follows on from yesterday’s (click here). It gives a bit of background on my college years.
So after the episode at Oxbridge, my mum was not very settled. She kept on saying that if they could make a mistake as huge as that in a simple entrance exam, what are the chances the same will not happen to my actual A level results. So I never went back to Oxbridge.
In the meanwhile, I was to go to London for my summer holiday for like 2 months or so, I can’t remember. I was tres happy, I wasn’t even thinking about what I was going to do regarding my education. I just figured it would all sort itself out. As I went on summer holidays before my brothers, I had to go on holiday alone and then my parents and brothers joined me a few weeks later. I had so much fun with my cousins. We went to parks, especially the ones with fun fairs, rode our bicycles to explore the area feeling like detectives with ourselves. The activity I enjoyed the most was going to the public library. I enjoy reading novels and at that stage in my life I was very into Sweet Valley High / University / Twins, anything written by Francine Pascal. I was always so happy each time I walked into the library and I saw all these Sweet Valley books I had not yet read. If I remember correctly on my cousin’s library card we were allowed to borrow five books, so I would take 2 or 3 and he would take the balance. I was always the first person to finish reading my books and I would be disturbing him to finish his so we could take them back and get more books.
A few weeks later, my parents and brothers joined us and we had even more fun. The holiday started coming to a close and this was when my lovely uncle stepped in. My mum was on her way to meet us in his house so he went to pick her up from the station and took her through a different route than normal. He drove her past a school he wanted me to start in. My mum was like he shouldn’t start this because they couldn’t afford to leave me behind. My uncle made it known to them that he wasn’t going to let them take me and what am I going to do back in Nigeria. By the way.. I had absolutely no idea this was going on. The first I heard about the fact that I might be staying behind was when my dad woke me up early one morning to tell me I had an interview in school in Croydon. Notice the trend of my parents not giving me time to prepare for exams or interview. They just wake me up and expect me to be ready!
I think it is safe to say this was the beginning of the more serious me. I turned a new leaf even though it was not very evident to me at that point.
On the train to Croydon, my dad was giving me tips. I was busy worrying about my accent! Lol.. I was wondering if they would understand what I was saying and if I would understand them. I started remembering all those days back in Nigeria while my dad was watching CNN I would be sitting in the sitting room wondering how he could understand what they were saying. As he encouraged us to watch the news, there was no way I could escape it, so I just used to stare at their lips until my dad fell asleep when I would change it back to Nickelodeon sharply or cartoon network.
We eventually reached the college I was due to have my interview. They asked questions most of which my dad answered. Then my interviewer Chris Marsden (who ended up being my chemistry teacher in the college) asked me to pick 4 subjects I would like to sit my AS levels exams in and explained that after the 1st year I could drop one of them and continue with 3 into A levels. I picked the following:
Maths (easy choice)
Chemistry and physics were the other obvious choices as I dropped Biology in JSS3. I hated that subject. Now I had to pick a 4th one. Geography was out of the question as I had spent the last 3 or so years learning the Geography of Africa and mainly Nigeria and it did not seem like a good idea to throw Europe into the mix seeing as I knew nothing about it so I settled for Economics.
I got into John Ruskin College. It isn’t exactly the best of schools, but it worked for me. I thought I was dreaming. It suddenly dawned on me that I was registered to sit an exam I said I would never sit (in my lazy days in high school) because it was too hard. The next stage of the process was for me to go back to Nigeria to apply for a student visa. Once again, my mum was worried, but I was far from that. We filled in the form and as usual I prayed and carried on with my life, catching up with my friends and telling them the good news. I wasn’t too pleased that I had to miss a week of school to go back home to apply for my visa. But trust the English, they had given me my textbooks and advised me on what chapters they will be covering in class in my absence and I was expected to study myself while I was away. If I had any questions I was to ask them when I returned. I landed in Nigeria on Sunday night and on Friday afternoon, my visa was ready. I was not surprised but my mum was. She turned to me and said ‘You this girl sha, you were not even worried’. I just smiled. Sunday night I was on a flight back to London, landed on Monday morning, got a cab to my uncle’s house from the airport and that same cab dropped me in college. I was so pleased to be back.
I loved my new school. I didn’t really feel out-of-place as there was a good mix of black and white people. As for the accent.. well let’s just say I got used to theirs and they got used to mine. It was nor easy for them as I spoke really fast in those days. My first class that day was Maths, teacher – Ms Mansoor, very lovely Indian lady. She was so good to me. There were about 16 or so of us in the class of which 4 of us were Nigerians (2 guys, 2 girls). My eyes immediately met with this Nigerian lad who happened to be my name sake and he ended up being my on and off boyfriend for the next couple of months. He was also in my Chemistry and Physics class. My first friend was this Sierra Leone girl, Kabay. She was also in my Economics class. We had lunch together and studied in the library together. In my Economics class, there were 3 other Nigerians, Tunde, Tonia (who is now married) and Sarah. Tunde was just a crazy boy/man, he never failed to remind us all that he was a Nigerian prince, and of course people were fascinated. I on the other hand kept kissing my teeth each time he said it. Me myself gan, I am from a royal family so I know too well it means nothing in our beloved country.
Within a few weeks I was on top of my Maths and Chemistry and struggled with Physics and Economics. My uncle and aunt knew about this and kept on encouraging me. My parent never for once forgot to remind me that they were sacrificing a lot for me to be in the school I was in and so I should make sure I worked hard. I saw it as a new opportunity to start afresh so work hard was what I did.
Back home, my cousin (the boy) was also in college for his A Levels, but in a different school. His subjects were Maths, Economics, Physics and P.E. So we would discuss after school and study in the dinning room together after dinner. All we pretty much did at home was eat, study, church and very little TV. We were geeks. That was pretty much the new me! I also realised that I had become more confident and outspoken. I asked a lot of questions in class, especially Economics and Chemistry class (I asked very little in Physics because I just did not get it!). I remember once I was about to ask yet another question when Mr Marsden went, “Dami is going to ask me now why the sky is blue.” He was clearly tired of my questions, but he was such a good sport. Economics class on the other hand, I had two teachers. John Rowland and Teresa (something.. George I think, I don’t remember). I always cried in this class because I knew I needed to get 3 A’s at the end of 2 years or at least 2A’s and a B if I wanted to get into one of the top 10 university in the UK. My uncle kept on drumming this into both of our ears. This was the reason I cried each time I got my Economics test back and I saw a lovely C grade on it. My teachers will seat with me and go through my paper with me saying how I could improve etc which was such a blessing. Mr Rowland gave me his phone number and email address so I could contact him at weekends and evenings if I had any questions while I studied. obviously, this was before the whole Paedophile craze. I am sure this doesn’t happen any more these days. My classmates thought I was crazy. Some of them got C’s and were very pleased with it, but ko le ye won (they cannot understand). They had free education, I was paying fees!
Let’s just say the hard work most certainly paid off! I couldn’t even believe my eyes when I started getting A’s in Maths and Chemistry. To the extent that in my Maths class, I was no longer a priority as she was confident I would figure it out. I remember my Chemistry coursework I found very hard. Mr Marsden gave me a grade E for my draft coursework… yekpa! I wanted to quench! I cried like a baby for an hour and then I went through the course work to see why I got an E and I made all the changes which was mostly formatting issues and because I did not put page numbers etc and he explained that he was trying to make me work harder and not get complacent. The end product of my project scored me 47/50!!!! My classmates struggled to get anything close to 40 and I got 47. I couldn’t believe this. Physics I was dabbling in Cs and Economics in Bs and Maths was an A.
I got home from school one day to find a letter from school in the post saying I have been identified as a gifted and talented student! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I then later went on to get an award for 100% attendance in my 1st year of A levels. Funny award I know, but my school like I said was not a very good school, but the teachers were good and they loved to reward students who showed they were willing to learn.
Being identified as a G&T student and getting an award for attendance was the best thing that had happened to me at that stage in my life. Especially as I had never in my life been recognised for anything academically in the past. I was always in the shadow.
I sat my AS level exam (1st year A Levels) and finished with an A in maths, B in Economics, B in Chemistry and D in Physics. Not a great first attempt. I planned to re-sit some of the modules in my second year to bring up my grades. After my re-sits a couple of months later, my new grades were:
I went on to drop Physics and carried on with the other 3.
To be continued…
Time to go to bed. xx