Interview by Abdallah ABDELWEDOUD
Abdallah ABDELWEDOUD: I heard you came to BSL for the IB programme. How did you get to know about the school? Ola Odukoya: I did high school in Nigeria, Corona Secondary School, Agbara and I was in the school's chess team. We came to BSL for the Tri-Nations tournament. I really enjoyed the tournament and the diverse community BSL represented so when I was done with high school, I decided to come to BSL for IB
AA: What was the time period you spent at BSL?
OO: From August 2013 to June 2015
AA: What was your year group like - Did you have many nationalities within the group? Anything memorable about the year group you would like to share with us?
OO: Yeah! My year group was pretty diverse, we had Nigerians, Indians, Togolese, French, Korean, British, Rwandan and Chinese. We were about 16 people in my year and because of the small number we were close. We did a lot together, even got in trouble as a class sometimes together.
AA: I also found out that you were Head Boy in your time here. How did you balance your duties with academic work?
OO: I had other prefects to rely on when things got hectic with schoolwork but for the most part I enjoyed it, I got to relate with students from all the year groups and help organize and plan events for them. It was a good building block in teaching me leadership skills.
AA: Did you like your time here in Togo and at BSL? Do you have any fond memories?
OO: Yeah, I loved and missed Togo and BSL. I don't know if Mr.John Bree is still there, we always used to buy ice cream from him after school. Or on the weekends we would go watch football with Mr E and we would have hilarious arguments Mr Earnest obviously, I remember one time Mr. E and I were arguing for hours about Lebron vs Jordan, I was for Lebron of course, I hope he can finally admit Lebron is the GOAT. It really was home away from home. I still am close friends with a decent amount of my classmates up till now no matter if we are in different countries.
AA: Do you see the IB Programme as an ideal preparation for university life? What are some of the benefits of the programme? OO: I keep telling anyone that asks me, IB is probably the toughest and most rigorous program I went through in my academic career and I did Architecture in college. If you can survive IB college work shouldn’t be as tough. It made you disciplined with learning and taught me how to handle a heavy workload.
AA: What university did you attend and was the entrance process difficult? What degree programme did you pursue?
OO: I attended the Illinois Institute of Technology. I wouldn't say it was easy, I got in with some financial scholarship and I studied Architecture there. It's one of the best schools for Architecture in the US. I was happy I got in.
AA: Share with us what life was like for you at university.
OO: Life in College really shapes you up to be the adult you are, not necessarily just the academic life but outside that, that's when you are truly free as an adult so you learn about yourself in a whole new way and it's an interesting journey. It's definitely different for everyone and it depends on the school you go to. Lucky for me I was in Chicago so I had a good balance of fun even when school was intense
AA: What should students from Africa expect at universities abroad, especially in the US where you studied?
OO: If you schooled in BSL, just know you can happily stand toe to toe with anyone. It can be a culture shock but you'll be fine, just make the right friends and have a good group of people around you. Be open to exploring around you, whether it be food, culture, friends. Take it all in and enjoy it.
AA: Are there people still at BSL that you remember who had a positive influence on your career, or life in general? OO: Yeah for sure! All my teachers, especially Ms. Coker, Mr. Rao and Mr. Wamukoya. They really instilled discipline in me and helped me get ready for college even when I didn't like it and used to complain. Looking back it was all good. Mr E obviously, he's probably the only person I still keep in touch with. I appreciated the fact he was always going to tell you things as it is, whether you want to hear it or not. He talked to us like we were adults even when we were mischievous, sometimes.
AA: Where are you currently based? OO: I am an Urban Designer here in Chicago for a firm called SOM, I plan and design, neighborhoods, communities and cities. AA: Are you working on any projects currently or have you worked on something of interest recently? OO: Yeah, I’m working on Campus projects right now! A campus master plan in Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, and a student housing competition at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
AA: Finally, do you have anything that you would like to share with students in the IB programme here at BSL? OO: Enjoy your time in BSL and Togo and make the best of your time there with your friends. When you get to college and move on from that, you look back and miss it. I know it's wild to say but you do. I made some of my best friends there to this day and I was glad I made the decision to go there. I can't wait to come back and visit.
AA: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I appreciate you and your time. OO: Anytime. Good luck in your next steps after IB!