Year 1 Student Temilolu Awofeso takes us back on his ALA journey from the O.R. Tambo Airport to the first steps into his hall, experiencing independence for the first time, and being immersed in a new environment – and the lessons he has learned…
Writing this piece is most likely the hardest thing I was assigned to do this month, as traveling back down memory lane is not the simplest task but has opened up the greatest lessons and secrets. These lessons and secrets have shaped my ALA journey, and myself, to where I am today. These are the foundations of my values, my character, and the refined individual I have become today.
I’ll start with the day I arrived. Thin sweater. Heavy suitcase. Anxiety spread from my neck to my feet like an oversized jumper, which tickled me at my spine when I walked into Classified Hall. Being welcomed by my fellow hall members and John Lewis’ JBL Speaker with Afrobeat music was the first indication that life in ALA could never be ordinary. I saw no issue with this, being the extraordinary Nigerian who was curious to meet students across the continent and develop new bonds.
Over the course of those first two months (Sep-Nov), I was able to socialize better with students outside my country, namely Adnan Shafi from Kenya, Umar Teixeira from Mozambique and Tania Twinoburyo from South Africa/Uganda.
I think one of the most confusing aspects of ALA was trying to understand the multicolored timetable we had, which involved me entering classes I did not even sign up for. It took a while to understand the A-B-A*-B structure, but the moment I grasped it I didn’t even have to look at it in the morning to know what subject I had.
Initiation was another moment of self-discovery for me, having to wake up in the cold of dawn on the quad with a bucket full of water over my head with my first year hall mates. This was the first moment I felt the true confrontation of our Second Years, but also the true moment where I bonded with my First Years.
I learned a lot about leadership, integrity, (and how to fill a bucket with water on the grass in under 3 minutes), and co-operation with hall mates. Those first days went by in a haze as I grew a strong desire to be home with my family, but this slowly dissipated as I found myself immersed with amazing people who cared about me as much as I cared about them.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my first year is that independence through experience is the best teacher. I never saw myself living in a boarding school, much less of one outside the continent. Growing up around family developed such a strong bond inside me that the idea of self-independence was such a long walk to freedom, but being here has paved the journey for me beyond my expectations.
This was a huge ‘Aha’ moment, the day I realized this life is mine to live and not for another. I also learnt that everyone is not going to love you the way you love others, and that is perfectly fine. Find the people who love you and keep them close, but always remember to keep those acquaintances closer.
I think that the only thing I wish I were clearer on was the curriculum and student life, especially when it comes down to the food. One thing I was really happy to discover was the glory that was Spar Walk and Mall Trips, giving me an easy access to get things I need and to see the city in transit.
Entering Second Year in September, I hope to see myself (with my 3 A-Levels) soaring through my academics better than I did in the beginning of my ALA year, with minimal stress and positive vibes from my new First years, Year 2 Trips and explorative activities, such as Conquer and Winchester.
Till then, Ciao!