By Abdulafeez Olaitan
At the 52nd Convocation Ceremonies, Olajumoke Sorungbe graduated top of her class of over 400 Law students as the only first-class graduate from the entire Faculty of Law, University of Lagos.
In this interview, Olajumoke talks about various fields of Law, and gives a demonstrative advice to students struggling with academics. In her words:
My mantra is to be excellent at whatever you do, so if school doesn’t work for you, find the things that do and be excellent at them.
Best Graduating Student, Faculty of Law UNILAG
AO: Please share with TPC UNILAG, a little about yourself and your background.
OS: My name is Olajumoke Sorungbe, 22-year old indigene of Ogun State. I am from a family of five and my best colour is Pastel Pink. When I’m not reading, you can catch me watching a movie, listening to music, gisting with friends, trying a new recipe or shaking my ass on a yacht in Dubai (winks).
My core values include integrity, honesty and determination. I love to influence people positively and drive impact in whatever capacity
AO: What do you enjoy most about your education? What aspects of your field of study intrigued you the most and why?
OS: I enjoy the very challenging and complex nature of Law. I am deeply fascinated by the interdisciplinary nature of Law, how there is a law for everything and anything. The flexibility of law to suit any situation is a wonder.
I am most intrigued by the Corporate and Commercial aspects of Law. I like how challenging and technical it can be and how it is easy to relate real life scenarios to the theories I was taught. I am also intrigued by Private International Law, as I think it is a misunderstood area of law.
AO: You are the only first class graduate from the entire Faculty of Law, University of Lagos Class of 2020. How does this make you feel? What would you say makes you stand out from your contemporaries?
OS: I am mind-blown because of the wishes, the paparazzi, the monetary and non-monetary presents, and the people I have met and connected with as a result.
It is even more sentimental when I see how happy my parents, family, and friends are. It is encouraging since it indicates my abilities and intellect in some manner. It seemed unbelievable at first, I think about the fact that we were over 400 students in my class, many of whom worked quite hard. I know that some students worked much harder than I did.
However, it wasn’t a coincidence that I am the only first class graduate from Law. It is gratifying that I put in a lot of effort and that my efforts were recognized. I can’t exactly pinpoint what I did differently that made me stand out from my contemporaries, but what I do know is that I pushed myself. I pushed myself to the point where I would feel that I had done my best and there was nothing more to do. I also made sure that I worked smart as opposed to working hard, and this meant that I paid a lot of attention to seemingly insignificant details.
AO: Would you advise students to combine academics with other activities while on campus, why or why not? What extracurricular activities did you participate in?
OS: I will definitely advise students to participate in extra curricular activities. These activities go a long way in exposing them and broadening their outlook on various subject matters.
Grades are important, but they are not all. As a student, it is important to broaden your knowledge base, gain skills and experience, build your competencies. Extracurricular activities provide a solid opportunity to do all these.
I participated in a couple of extracurricular activities and did a number of internships. I was an active member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, UNILAG, as well as the Tax Club, UNILAG. I was also a Student Tutor for the Law Student Society (LSS). I volunteered actively with Lagos Food Bank and Slum2School Africa, and I was a member of Junior Chamber International (JCI). These experiences greatly improved my writing and research skills, teamwork skills, adaptability as well as my analytical and critical thinking skills. My competencies, including my network are also impacted by these experiences.
AO: “Nigerian graduates are less-competent compared to their counterparts in other parts of the globe.” Give your thoughts. Do you think this statement possess any elements of truth?
OS: I do not think that this statement adequately captures the reality of the situation. The Nigerian educational system is fraught with deficiencies, from frequent union strikes to accommodation challenges amongst others.
Notwithstanding these issues, Nigerian graduates have proven, time and time again to be as competent, if not more competent than their counterparts in other parts of the globe. There are statistics that show how exceptionally well Nigerians perform, both in the academia and professionally outside the country. The possibilities and capabilities of Nigerian graduates are endless when placed in a system that actually works and enhances their abilities.
AO: Has the structure of your home and family dynamics influenced your success in any way? How?
OS: The structure of my home and family dynamics influenced my success to a large extent. First, my parents are both teachers and I was brought up with with a culture of excellence. It was “aim for the best or nothing” in my home. This shaped my mindset to a very large extent. Also, I am the first child out of three, and it was important to me that I set a good example for my younger ones, a pace for them to follow.
I felt responsible for charting a course for them. My family was also really supportive of me and my goals. They had unshaken confidence in me. This was a constant source of motivation on days when I lacked the strength to continue, times when I was frustrated or uncertain.
AO: Would you say you had more friends or lost more friends because of your goals and values? Kindly explain? Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?
OS: The relationships and friendships built are an invaluable part of my journey through the University. I was very lucky to have the best set of friends, they were my cheerleaders and served as a strong support system. I don’t think I lost friends as a result of my goals and values, but I can confidently say that I made more friends with similar values and goals.
I can’t forget the contribution of my lecturers who poured so much of their knowledge into us, and gave so much of themselves; my friends for constantly pushing me and motivating me to do better; my family for their unwavering support and belief, my study groups; they hold a special place in my heart. Overall, a lot of people contributed to this feat, directly or indirectly and I am so grateful.
AO: Have you been a recipient of any scholarship? Kindly run through the application process?
OS: I am a Nigerian Higher Education Foundation Scholar and a Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria Scholar.
For NHEF, application was online through the website where I had to answer a couple of essays, after which there were two rounds of interviews, and the final selection of 50 people. For BOSAN, the faculty sent names of eligible students to the body; 95 students across different universities wrote the exam, 20 students were called for an interview and 5 students were eventually selected.
AO: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them? Any advise to give to a student who has failed academically and about to give up?
OS: My advise to students is “know thyself.” From the onset, understand what works for you, your reading styles and habits, productive times, and learning styles amongst other things.
The knowledge of these things help you in gaining a solid footing, working smart, maintaining balance and managing distractions. I also cannot overemphasize the importance of consistency and dedication to achieving set goals. It is important that you have goals and intentionally work to achieve them. Also, read to understand and not just to pass.
If you feel you have failed academically, it is honestly not the end of the world. My mantra is to be excellent at whatever you do, so if school doesn’t work for you, find the things that do and be excellent at them.
AO: After your Bachelor’s Degree, WHAT NEXT?
OS: I am currently enrolled in the Nigerian Law School. I look forward to completing the program and being called to the Nigerian bar. I also look forward to being a badass lawyer. I want to work on complex transactions across industries, and use my knowledge of the Law to solve problems creatively.
I am also passionate about volunteering and making impact, so I look forward to doing more in that regard and contributing to the overall development of my society.