On July 10, 2021, I officially became an alum of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), no longer a student but a graduate. I have had time to reflect on my four years’ journey in this prestigious university as a Chibok girl studying in a world-class institution hosting a global community. Yes, I faced challenges and difficulties, but those difficulties shaped me into who I am today.
No doubt, the four-year journey was tough, rough, and challenging, but July 10th brought joy and feelings that words cannot describe due to the excitement and happiness I felt inside me. Thinking of the moment, I would wear my graduation gown and join the academic procession from the library to the Commencement Hall for the ceremony was unbelievable. Although I was taking pictures with friends from the moment I arrived at the library, it still looked like it was not real, that I was not going to graduate. However, after I lined up in the hall with other graduating students, I felt so much joy and relief. It was then I said yes, I was truly graduating.
The anticipation and excitement of graduation were shared not only by members of the Class of 2020 and 2021 but also by the entire AUN community, students, parents and families because it was such a historic moment for everyone. Being the first time AUN had joined two classes for graduation since the school held its first commencement in 2009, the atmosphere was going to be magical, and it indeed was.
While walking through the hall, I saw parents, visitors and student volunteers standing out and graduating students enjoying their special day with smiles. I was patiently seated and listening to the valedictorians and class speakers for the two classes, and Commencement Speakers deliver their addresses. As time grew by, graduating students got seated. I was eager to know what could be next.
Boo! The awaited moment has come when graduating students would walk to the stage to collect their diplomas. It started with the class of 2020 down to the class of 2021. I was cheering other graduating students while eagerly waiting for my turn to go and get my diploma. It was an orderly process, seat after seat, Covid-19 protocols strictly enforced.
Thus, as time grew, the row I was in stood up to walk to the stage for their diploma. At that moment, I was nervous and happy at the same time. I wanted to experience the feeling of walking on the stage to get my diploma. When it came to my turn, I handed my seat number to the Master of Ceremony, and he called: Katambi Mary, Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
I walked toward President Margee Ensign with joy, excitement and a cheerful heart to collect my diploma. I wanted to whisper a ‘thank you’ to this wonderful, caring woman for everything she has done for me and my sisters from Chibok but the moment went fleeting past like a daydream. It all began with her coming to get us to study at AUN. It is the work of God that she is the chosen one to present my diploma to me. Who could have predicted today’s event, in August 2014?
My mummy and daddy were there cheering me along with friends and other loved ones. Deep inside me, I was praising God for making it possible for me to see this day because I never imagined myself getting a degree, let alone from the best University in Nigeria, the American University of Nigeria. Those were unforgettable memories, forever kept alive in my memory, like a long-playing, never-ending video.
ALSO READ: ‘Chibok girls’, no longer, By Margee Ensign
After collecting my diploma from the stage filled with joy, the type I never experienced in my life. I walked down to my seat. At that moment, our Head of Communications, Mr Daniel Okereke, approached me by my seat and asked if I was okay returning to the stage to take a photograph with AUN Founder, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar. I was like, who, me? I became nervous to go back to the stage, having taken a photograph with President Ensign while receiving my diploma. However, Mr Okereke said, ‘do not be scared’. Therefore, I got the privilege and honour to take pictures with His Excellency Atiku Abubakar and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), who was the Commencement keynote speaker. No, I was in Dreamland!
When the commencement ceremony was over, I scanned through the crowd to see my parents and friends. Long story short, I felt the hugs and congratulations from my family and friends. Phone calls and messages from relatives and friends who could not be there physically for me.
Finally, I took pictures with my parents, friends, and AUN classmates and then headed for lunch with my family and friends. That was how my graduation day went. If I were to describe my graduation day in two words, I would say an unforgettable moment. But in a comment, it was a Dream!
Mary Katambi, one of the first 25 Chibok Girls to be enrolled at the American University of Nigeria in 2014 by President Margee Ensign, recently obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the AUN. She is presently interning at the University’s Communications Department
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