Adeola, a Nigerian First Class graduate shares her journey to a funded PHD in America

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Scholar: Adeola Sanni

Undergraduate course and Grade: Human Kinetics and Health Education, First Class

Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan

Graduate Course and University: PHD, Exercise Physiology, University of Georgia

Growing up with aspirations was a tough call in Nigeria, I have always wanted to be a teacher but didn't know in what capacity or specialization. My first day at the University of Ibadan after gaining admission was intriguing, so, I made the decision to take my studies to greater heights by attaining the highest educational degree; how that was going to happen wasn’t clear to me, but it was a firm decision that required lots of efforts and hard work.

My first year as a student of Human Kinetics and Health Education was challenging as we were told at our welcoming party that the department has only been able to produce a first-class student from Human Kinetics 20years ago. I became so tensed but decided to stay strong by putting in my best to be the next first-class student, which became a reality with God on my side. I graduated with a first class in my first-degree program. This epoch beginning landed me a full scholarship offer (accommodation and monthly stipend included) from the same University to proceed for my Masters in Exercise Physiology. I worked for about a year after my NYSC, to get some necessary experience and exposure before returning to school for my master’s program. Few months into my master’s program, I started looking out for PhD opportunities outside the country as this was next on my agenda. I did a lot of research into various schools until I was able to connect with Prof Kevin McCully’s who heads the ‘Exercise Muscle Physiology’ Lab at the University of Georgia (UGA), USA. I developed interest in his research field and paid a visit to his Laboratory to get acquainted with his past and current research work. However, all this happened during the final semester of my master’s program which comes with a heavy workload; this led to delayed PhD application hence I missed that year’s departmental graduate assistantship application deadline. Due to my resilience and persistence and with God on my side, I got favored and gained a doctoral scholarship from the Graduate school with the help of my research professor and another professor from Africa in the department whom I met during my visit. I am currently a second-year Doctoral student of Exercise Physiology and the graduate school funded my program for the first year after which I got a Graduate Teaching Assistant offer from the department and a Graduate Research Assistant offer from my lab through a grant.

Tips / Words of advice

· You need to investigate the department of your choice and send emails to professors/faculty members of your interest (most graduate program(thesis) requires you have a major advisor who is willing to work with you).

· Most good things do not come easy; be aggressive and determined about your investigation (I sent more than 50 emails to several professors and I only get a few positive responses which led to my success story). Don’t be discouraged, keep trying until you get what you need.

· Sometimes you need to take some huge steps of faith (1. I resigned from a well-paying job to pursue my master’s program. 2. I traveled out of the country for the first time just to visit the Lab in USA).

· Always set out early (I submitted my application for PhD with an incomplete master’s degree result) don’t wait till last minute. JUST DO IT.

· Have a good relationship with your professors/Lecturers; you need a good recommendation letter from them (after I got admission into UGA, I had a huge challenge getting my official master’s results from University of Ibadan, which almost cost me my admission and scholarship but with the help of some of my Lecturers and the support of the University Vice Chancellor I had my thesis defense individually and my transcript was processed ahead of my classmates’).

· It requires lots of dedication and resources. Therefore, be ready and don't be discouraged. Just believe in your guts and the possibility in all situations. Most importantly, have faith in God.

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