17 Oct Dear First Year Student…
By Tobias Belleh, JKUAT
I do not know who you are, I do not know your name or where you come from, but I have been where you are. I have travelled the journey you are about to begin, the journey that you have now already began. You will most probably not see me giving any speech during your orientations. You may not see me at all, or know me for that matter, so I decided to write you this letter instead. First of all congratulations for making it this far, trust you me it’s no mean feat. You now hold your destiny in your hands. Not many people get that chance, the chance to be the author of their books.
Not so long ago I graduated from this University, successfully punctuating a four year duration of transformation. You are now beginning that journey, and the map as to where it leads is completely in your hands and in your control. I am going to tell you what most people will not tell you. What most people will sugar coat or generalize in vague terms while giving you speeches or advising you. So permit me to be real with you.
Ideally, nothing really prepares you for University life. Nothing prepares you for the hurdles, the hustles and the challenges that come with it, but most of all, nothing prepares you for the freedom of choice that comes with it. And that is the most essential. The freedom of choice. Even this letter will not sufficiently prepare you for this. I know most of you have come from former Secondary schools where discipline was very strict and everything had to be done by the book and that were characterized by pressure to deliver. I also know some of you are far away from home, over seven hours or even ten hours away. My home is nine hours away by road, so I know. This means now you are completely free from the nagging, strict parents and their rules. Congratulations!
The fact that now you have infinite freedom is no accident. Freedom is only granted to those who deserve it, to those who have attained the capability to decide for themselves the cause of their lives. So for your sake I hope that describes who you are. Now that you hold the power to decide the direction your life takes, do you think it would be wise to delegate that duty to a friend or your colleagues? Do you think surrendering the driving license of your life to someone else would steer you in the right destination? I can tell you one thing for a fact. That journey would either end in an accident, and if it is lucky at all, it will end up in the wrong destination. In most cases the result is a terrible irreversible mess. I’m talking about peer pressure. You see, we all come from different backgrounds. Your parents may be well off or they may be poor. But now the University has brought you in a cosmopolitan place with students from diverse backgrounds. It is only natural that at some point you will be tempted to fit in, to feel accepted, to feel like you belong, to feel like you are at par with the rest. And this may lead you into making decisions that you would otherwise never do. Terrible, irreversible decisions.
You should know this; the only sure thing about choices is that they have an aftermath. An aftermath you will have to live with. For the rest of your life. Nothing will be more fatal than if you decide to practice your freedom of choice without practicing your freedom of thought. I will give you a simple advice; run your race. Never try to leave beyond your means and destroy yourself in the process. If there’s anything I have learnt in my limited school of thought, it is that confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality. Stick to your reality.
At any given point, you can realize your greatest self. Do not let anyone hold you back. Don’t let anyone dilute you. Don’t be peer pressured into being less than you are. People willing to dilute themselves for the sake of others is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Never let others define and set the pace for your life. The only person you should compete with is the person you were yesterday. Endeavor to be better every day. Get out there and be your best. Do your best. Live your best. Make every day count and you’ll see how exponentially more exciting, thrilling, successful, happy and full your life will be.
When I joined JKUAT in first year, the third day of September 2012, I was assigned room one in hall five. I was sharing the room with three other colleagues. Very good friends of mine to date. I hope none of them reads this. Both of them were career drunkards, and I remember one of them asked me one day; “Do you have a medical problem or why exactly don’t you drink?”
That is among the greatest challenges of our time. Your colleagues will make things you would rather not do appear so cool to the extent you start wondering why you have not been doing them all along. To the extent you will start questioning principles you have lived by all along. Look, I am no saint. All I’m saying is that everyone is entitled to their decisions and choices. Have the mantle to stick to yours. And remember you owe no one an explanation for it. When it comes to social life, no one can really give a sufficient enough guideline on how to go about it. One thing for sure is that it will affect every other aspect of your life. So handle yourself carefully.
I will not waste my time telling you to abstain, it would be futile. Just remember this; AIDS is real, and so are many other Sexually Transmitted Infections. And you only have one shot at life. This is no rehearsal. If you can’t do it for your sake, then for the sake of those who love you, your parents and any other persons, and for the sake of this generation, which you owe a great contribution, kindly do take care. Let the excitement of being in University not prematurely drown your great potential. If you must have sex, do your diligence and wrap it up!! Your life is too precious. To every lady reading this, do not turn contraceptive pills into ground nuts! Your life is precious sweety, just take care for Chrissake. Do not one day lie somewhere, bedridden, watching life pass you by because of avoidable stupid mistakes.
Do not become a slave to any man in the name of a sponsor for temporary materials that will soon fleet by. Think hard and long, and realize your life is worth much more. I know you have probably heard that a million times, but I have nothing to lose in repeating it. Just remember that your freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. You get to decide what your definition of better is. I will tell you guys this for free. There are several things to do in JKUAT, several clubs and societies that champion positive and transformative cause in the society. Whenever you are tempted to waste your life, join one!
This is the primary reason you are here. Unlike in High School, no one is going to push you around. But I can tell you for a fact that the JKUAT academic system will naturally push you around. You see, the system is structured in such a manner that it naturally sieves out anyone deemed unworthy. No one will beg you to attend lectures or sit CATs, exams or even be disciplined. The only thing you should remember at the back of your mind is that you are no longer competing to go to University anymore. You are already here, and the only thing you are eyeing is the job market. You get to decide whether you are going to have a position in the employment market or not. You get to choose whether you are going to be in the forefront of making impact in the society or not.
How you take and treat your academic commitment will be the key determinant of that. The University prepares you for the world out there, and how you cooperate in that preparation determines whether you will even make it past first year or not. So never forget what matters.
I am finishing with this to let you know everything else I have said would be obsolete and pointless if God is not at the centre of it all. I don’t know your faith or lack of it thereof. Whether Muslim or Christian, always remember that you can never prevail in anything without God. Never be too arrogant to forget that. Let me not be carried away and begin preaching. Just remember everything else is vanity if we don’t commit them to Him.
Let me make this clear. I am not telling you to lead a boring strict life in Campus. I’m just pleading with you to engage your brain in every decision you make. By all means have fun, interact, learn new things, make new friends, discover the world, enjoy your life and discover your potential. Life is short my friend. But I invite you to wallow in the greatness of these words by Steve Jobs;
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Everything else is a non-issue.
Congratulations, and all the best in your University life!
Tobias Belleh is a Graduate of JKUAT, email:firstname.lastname@example.org