Somewhere in 2012, I had admission to the University of Education Winneba (UEW) to study BA Social Studies Education. As a Senior High School graduate, I really did not know much about life in the university. As the first-born, I did not have any older siblings who had gone to the university to tell me about life in the university or share their experiences with me. I only heard a bit about life in the university from some distant family members anytime they came visiting. Fortunately my friend Sarah had an elder sister, Lois, who was so helpful on the first day I arrived. She helped me in securing accommodation and in doing other things new students have to do in UEW, and she had visited on several occasions often with pieces of advice about how to carry myself on campus. She also told me how long a journey I had to make from Wa to Winneba.
First week on campus was confusing and fun for me. Fun because I met an old SHS mate; Gifty and we were in the same room so I felt a little at home. After I took that long journey and got to campus, it still felt strange that I was in school but I soon settled into a routine: go to class, go to the hall, go to church and then when school vacates I go home, that was all that I knew my life was going to be on that campus. The university was another long educational journey I was starting and I was not sure what lay ahead of me or how I was going to go through that journey.
First semester came and went and I was always on my own, studying alone, walking to class alone, walking home alone, not that I didn’t have friends but I tried as much as possible to keep to myself as I could. Of course, I made that long journey from Wa to Winneba alone so it was
no big deal to walk around on campus alone but that would soon change when I met Simon. Simon was one of the first friends I made in school. We kinda clicked. This could have been because we had some things in common; we were both Dagaaba, we attended the Holy Roman Catholic church, we were in the same class and even studied the same courses (both major and minor). He also knew a lot of people I knew too (a lot of mutual friends) so I was comfortable around him. Few weeks into the second semester, Simon introduced me to his study group mates and that was how I found myself among six gentlemen: Rashad, Clement, Justice, Jonathan, Emmanuel and Simon. I was the only female among the group though occasionally we had other female students from our class join us, so I was enjoying all the attention a woman would enjoy among men.
Being the only female in the group meant that I was a feminine touch to every discussion that we had. Rashad would always say “Let us hear from the woman”, or Clement will say “Let Sugar tell us her view” and Emmanuel too used to say “We haven’t heard from Sugar on this point”. Justice often would just say “That is a woman speaking” and lastly Simon would argue with me and ask follow up questions on whatever I explained and even ask me to give examples. We got along quite well as a group, and I always say it was one of the best things that happened to me as a student. I find it difficult studying alone, especially in a quiet environment, I will either begin to doze or I will read one sentence over and over and over
and over because my mind would often wander off.
Back then, I had a Samsung galaxy S III phone and I used to play Zuma a lot on that phone. One of the days as we sat under a summer hut in front of Simpa A (one of the university halls) having our group discussion, I got tired and decided to play Zuma on my phone a bit, Simon observed me for a while and said to me in Dagaare “Sugar, you did not come all the way from Wa to play games on your phone. You know that of all the students in this university, we are part of those who
really travel from afar to reach here, so you cannot behave like any other student, you have to leave a mark, stop playing the game and let us learn. Even if the money you are paying as lorry fare to come to Winneba is not a problem, think about the over sixteen hours you spend travelling from Wa to Winneba. It is so long a journey from Wa to Winneba, you should make it worthwhile”. After saying that, he took the phone from me and put it away. I spent the rest of the study time that day thinking about what he said. Our other colleagues did not understand what he said because of course they do not understand Dagaare nor did they pry. To them, it was a private moment between two close friends.
From that day, I became steadfast about the reason why I was in the school. Maybe I was just one of those students who was following the crowd, I just went to the university because that was what I was expected to
do after my SHS. Maybe I was just doing what every other university student was doing, get a study group to keep boredom away, or maybe appear to also be serious like everyone else. But the words that Simon shared with me that fateful day gave me an opportunity to reflect on the reason why I was there and to take things more seriously. So on our graduation day when Simon was seated to my right hand side, I said “Simon, thank you”, but I am sure he did not know why I was saying thank you. The words he spoke to me still rang and I was glad that the long journey had come to an end successfully.
So the piece of advice doesn’t always have to be harsh, it doesn’t always have to be a fight, it was soft and subtle, and it hit the right place without much effort. Meanwhile before I left home for school, my parents and other family members told me to study hard when I get to the university, it appears I had heard those words so often and I did not even understand what they meant anymore. I knew I was on a journey though I was not sure about it.
Next time you want to give any piece of advice to someone, you may want to be subtle about it, you may also want to do it quietly so that you do not draw unnecessary attention to the person. I have received a lot of pieces of advices in my short life but that piece of advice from Simon that day still rings in my head wherever I go and in everything I do. It reminds me to put up my best, to do things differently because I cannot make a journey so long and produce results like everyone else. CHEERS!!!