– Treasure Apeh –
Ever noticed yourself living your dreams, or so you thought, only to realize it was a farce all along? That is the summary of my life. Well, until three months ago.
Sadly, the once very intelligent young girl was now a confused adult. I was able to secure different jobs here and there but I was not satisfied. I just did not fit in.
Growing up, I was always top of the class academically from nursery school through to secondary school. I grew up in a typical Nigerian home where children are usually made to believe that intelligent kids are supposed to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. Topping the wish-list for many is the desire to be a medical doctor as it is seen as a profession meant for the best brains. This was drilled into my being as my dad wanted his ‘brilliant’ daughter to become a medical doctor. I was made to believe being a medical doctor was the only option available to me.
I was very smart. I understood every subject taught in class and got excellent grades. As a result, it was very easy for me to get into taking mostly science classes for my senior secondary education. In Nigeria, those who were taking science classes were seen as the brightest kids in school. There was this huge prestige attached to wearing a lab coat and carrying a 5-litre keg of water and three hardcover notes to the laboratory for sessions. However, due to the poor state of the laboratories in my school at that time, we were only able to carry out chemistry experiments. Nonetheless, it was great to experiment mixing chemicals and see them change color or evaporate. Through these experiences, I became convinced that becoming a medical doctor was my destiny.
After completing secondary school, I applied to study medicine at university. However, things didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped and my path quickly changed. After two failed attempts, I was instead offered admission to study microbiology at the University of Abuja. I was hesitant but I accepted the opportunity. From my first day in the laboratory, I felt very uneasy. During our first practical session, we were instructed to view microorganisms through the microscope. This was my first time using a microscope. I did not know how to use it and I kept seeing my eye lashes instead which was frustrating. There were about 200 students in the class with access to only 5 microscopes. We were only allowed to use the microscopes for a few seconds since other students were waiting in line. Such lack of access prompted my gradual loss of interest in the class. As the weeks progressed, going to class felt like a burden. I just couldn’t get excited anymore.
I struggled with understanding and appreciating the biological sciences all throughout my studies at university. I became more and more convinced that it was not my calling. I just could not wait to get out and move on to other things. I concentrated on passing all my exams without the desire of actually understand what was taught. Somehow, I managed to graduate with a Second-Class Upper degree.
However, my time at university allowed me to learn something entirely new about myself. I noticed that I was really drawn to computers. I was fascinated with using my brother’s laptop to type and just go through all applications on it. I learned to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all on my own.
After graduation, securing a fulfilling job was a challenge mainly because I could not figure what I wanted to do. The one thing I was sure about was not working in a biology lab! Sadly, the once very intelligent young girl was now a confused adult. I was able to secure different jobs here and there but I was not satisfied. I just did not fit in. Luckily, I came across a life changing opportunity in June 2017. The opportunity was a 5-Week Coding Boot Camp for girls hosted by the Visiola Foundation. I decided to apply out of boredom!
Fortunately, I was among the 50 girls selected. From the very first day of the camp, I felt a sense of belonging. It was really amazing how fast I understood everything being taught. It was magical how I was able to write code to execute specific commands of my choosing. The feeling was so inspiring and each day I got more and more hooked. I tried to learn everything I could from anyone that had something to teach. I really fell in love with programming. Things were all coming together in such a short amount of time. Graphic design, MySQL database, and mobile development stood out to me. I really felt that I had found my true passion. I was made for the tech world.
During the camp, I cherished the great mentorship sessions that were offered. The sessions allowed me to see the untapped potential I possessed. I also learned about opportunities that were available to me if I was willing to try. The sessions helped boost my self-esteem. I found my true identity during the camp. For me, what I learned in 5 weeks in camp was way more invigorating than all that I was taught in 4 years at university. At the end of the camp, I actually ended up winning an award for the most improved student. I also got an internship opportunity with the Visiola Foundation where I would work to empower girls by educating, training and mentoring them in Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Through all these experiences, I felt like my life was just beginning.
Currently, I am taking an online course on artificial intelligence, MySQL database and robotics. I hope to become a database management expert in the near future and an authority in artificial intelligence. I would like to also continue to work with young girls to expose and empower them in STEM fields. Why? Well, I believe that a lot of young girls lack the necessary exposure and mentorship to help them find their career path. With more exposure and mentorship, I believe we can uncover many opportunities that are available to young girls and women.
My journey so far has taught me that we all have untapped potential and passion inside. This is especially true for young girls. Although it may take a long time to find one’s true passion, I encourage you to stay committed to developing yourself and seek new opportunities. One day, you will finally unlock all your potential and blossom like a flower in spring time.