To Aspire is One Thing, to Achieve is Another.

Project InspireMe; TBSS series #2, with Ebube Akpamgbo

Ebube- My name is Ebube Akpamgbo, a first class law graduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, doubling as the best graduating student of my faculty with a 4.76 CGPA in 2019.

I hail from Enugwu Ukwu town in Njikoka Local Government, Anambra State, Nigeria. However, I was largely raised in Enugu State where I had my elementary and secondary education. Also, I am the third child among four siblings. And actually, I am from a family lineage of many excellent lawyers, so I do not see myself to be any different. I try not to.

After my secondary education, I was convinced that it was either law or nothing. At home, we had law books at every nook and cranny of the house, and I was unconsciously submerged into legal reasoning as a child. At a particular shelf, we had the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in different sizes. And every time I looked at them, I was reminded of the volume of knowledge I would be expected to acquire when I commence reading law. Now that I look back, I may never have had a choice. It may just be that LAW was the most circumstantially convenient option for me. But in all, no one made the decision for me.

At the time I secured an admission into UNN, reading was already my second nature. And quite frankly, my programme at UNN was not exactly a walk in the park. There was so much information we were expected to process and retain in each semester. So I knew I needed a strategy. And it was basically to read earlier before the lecturers taught and to make my notes immediately afterwards. And now that I look back, I remind myself of the importance of grace-factor. There was nothing I specifically did better. God alone made it possible.

Ebube - My daily routine was basically :
i. Wake up and have a short moment of prayer.
ii. While still in bed, mark out plans for the day considering the days lecture schedule. I did not specifically have reading timetable because it made my schedule mechanical and tight. I just flew into the topics in my different modules and read each to my satisfaction before jumping to another.
iii. After lectures, I visited the library to catch up on the new cases and texts we were always referred to read (those cases were never unending).
iv. After library, when I was satisfied I had fulfilled my plans for the day, I got to meet up with friends and have a good time. I went to bed early as reading at night never worked for me. I rather read early in the morning.
v. I also attended my fellowship programmes (as the Spirit lead) and a couple of other social events, in the evening. There were other things that could sporadically come up and required my attention.
All of them made my day.

Ebube - Study-wise, there are many study principles. There is the principle of read before your lecturer teaches, make notes into summary of summaries or even to read overnight (what is popularly called night class). There are many principles. But the bottom line is do what works for you. Decipher your brain carrying capacity already. The raw truth for a law student is that - there are thousands of law principles and millions of exceptional rules to know. There are also hundreds of texts to read and internalize. And the funny part is that you are expected to know each principle and exception to the latter. A similar rule applies to some other disciplines.
So the first step is to ask yourself- how much information can I retain at a time? Do I understand easily or not? etc. If you answered these few questions in the negative, then you have more work. You may have to read more and do more of note-making than reading from texts directly.

There are many principles. But the bottom line is do what works for you. Decipher your brain carrying capacity already.

You should particularly have a summary of summaries where the major principles are briefly enumerated. That eases your remembering ability. You must also sit down and read. If you desire academic excellence in LAW or any other worthwhile discipline, lying on your bed to read will not give you that. There is a level of concentration you garner when you sit upright with your pen in your fingers while reading.
Read each topic, each principle, each exception one for one. Do not stand up from that your reading seat until you can comfortably recite all you have read to yourself. There is a thin line between effective memorization and ordinary cramming. Go for the former. Ensure you understand the topic thoroughly by having a full view of the elephant from different angles. That way, the knowledge sticks without further ado.

This enables you to proffer the right answers to any possible question or factual scenario that may arise. Rest and rest. When all is said and done, the only natural guarantee that the large chunk of what you have read will stick to your head is only sleep. So help yourself. Last tip, do more of early morning reading. If you can discipline yourself to read between 5 am to 7 am, you will discover that it sticks more than whatever you may read later in the afternoon or evening.

There is a thin line between effective memorization and ordinary cramming.

Ebube- These days, extracurricular activities is such a necessary evil for every student. Indeed, it builds your CV and gives you the feeling of achievement. But many students also perform badly in academics because of it. As it is important, it is also a threat to academic excellence. Some extracurricular activities even demand your presence out of school while quizzes and tests maybe ongoing.

How do you address this? You draw out a working plan. Go for the opportunities, take up the political positions in your faculty/school, go out of campus occasionally for those competitions, meet people and network, write and publish articles, intern, volunteer, etc. But do these things smartly. The watchword should be balance.

I did most of my internships during long vacation. After my third year, I never truly rested during vacations. I often had so much on my plate. While interning, I worked on my publications. I entered for essay competitions etc. I did these mostly out of school session. When the session resumed, I focused more on my curriculum, and when I was done covering it, I continued the extracurricular works I could put side by side with academics.

As students, there are lots of extracurricular activities that will come your way while in school. Go for them provided they reflect your ultimate career goal. Those extracurricular activities may avail you the opportunity of meeting the most important people in your life. Nonetheless strike the necessary balance.

Ebube - Actually, I have worked with five (5) commercial law firms in Nigeria. Personally, securing the opportunities to work with those firms was not as difficult as making a distinction in a course. The former came easily. And this is the part where academic excellence plays a great role. Make the grades and use them to your advantage. These firms place a premium on academic excellence, so if you do not have any other motivation for reading, always remind yourself that in the first few years of your career, your grades will keep staring at your face. And there is so much you could do with them other than work placements.

Do your research, and key in for the opportunities in time. Even if you do not have the best grades, you will still get the right placements with a top-notch CV, an excellent interpersonal skillset and the attendant packaging. Simply project your strengths over your weakness in your applications.

Ebube - Quite an interesting question. Until I become the next Tyler Perry, no one should endorse me for critical thinking again (Laughs). Actually, every single phase of life gives you more skillset including a more refined critical thinking ability. Your critical thinking skills becomes topnotch when you are exposed to certain activities and tasks or deals that require you think on your feet.

Nonetheless, to make a first-class in any academic discipline, your critical thinking skills must be above average. Personally, I would say it is a skill you develop as you advance in age. Even if you are supposedly born with it, failure to hone it deprives you of it. Therefore in issues like this, I would rather say that environmental factors play an overriding role.

Ebube - The desire for global relevance is relative. While some students are satisfied with impacting their immediate society (geographical or professional), others aim to create a name for themselves internationally, even before graduation. For starters, I would suggest you kickstart with the former. In this age, it no longer pays to be merely a bookworm. You have to do more. You have to put your head out there early enough to learn the practice of your profession. Make acquaintances who have similar goals with you from other Colleges. Have a reliable network of professionals and stay in touch always.

There are opportunities you will discover from them and, you should take them on. I discovered about a very rewarding essay from a colleague at another University. I entered for the essay and albeit tremendously competitive, I got the 1st prize. That made me popular amongst the circle of people who knew about the essay.

I have many experiences like this. Share your inspiring stories when need be. Be known for something. Work on your own brand as a student. These days, there are so many students that are more influential than bright working class people. How do they do this? They create their own brand. They start out doing something excellent in a particular field. Some are intrested in writing and publishing intelligible articles, others in mooting. Some are taking up compere roles. Others are known for their excellent academic exploits. Ask yourself today what you want to be known for and work at it.

Ebube - I have a lot of books to possibly recommend to every willing mind. But I crave your indulgence to mention two.

Ebube- One is THINK AND GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill. There are many principles in this book that will make you realize that you are not a bystander in the unraveling of your destiny. It will open your eyes to the primary principles of life in attaining good success in any field of endeavour. Then alone will you realize that you have an active role to play in your own success story.

The second is THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING by Dale Carnegie. This book is not just about the art of public speaking. It will teach you the art of life generally. It will push you at being confident and how to demand a seat at the front aisle of life, where everyone must listen to you.

Ebube - To aspire is one thing, to achieve is another. Determination is key but discipline is difficult. A great result in anything in life is attained only when the necessary sacrifices have been made. And sacrifices are sacrifices, no matter how minute. It is sacrifice to take late dinners so as not to sleep off early at night in order to read. It is a sacrifice to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to make that career move. It is a sacrifice to cut off certain people from your life who make you lose your essence.
How disciplined are you? Do you wake up at night to read only to end up in free browsing websites? There are so many things to be said. I am no motivational speaker so the bottom line is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AS FAR AS IT YIELDS RESULTS. All in all, place God first in your life, and everything will take its due course. It is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, it is of God whom showeth mercy.

To aspire is one thing, to achieve is another. Determination is key but discipline is difficult.

Ebube- Thank you too. Its a great pleasure sharing my thoughts here. Im certain it will motivate some people. And please, the thank “yous” are enough already, lol. Cheers!

To Inspire, enlighten, expose & build the culture of Personal Development amongst students, to prepare them for life.