Scholar: Olubunmi Adegbola
Undergraduate Course and Degree: Religious Studies, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
Graduate Course and University: M.A. Religious Studies/New Testament, University of Ibadan & (Second Degree) Master of Theological Studies (MTS), Vanderbilt University.
I made several mistakes, but I did one thing right; learning and loving Greek. I also knew and
minded my business without comparing myself to other people. I went after what I wanted which
helped me to recognize opportunities when they showed up. I completed my master’s program at
the University of Ibadan in 2015 and experiencing OAU and UI made me certain that I wanted to
go to a different university outside of the country for my PhD. So, I asked questions and I got
help from very willing friends and family members. I took every feedback seriously and that paid
off. Professor Ojo, Professor Ilesanmi and my friend, Moyosooreoluwa Kemi-Rotimi came
through by offering names of schools and potential programs while I did the job of looking at the
programs, studying and sitting for exams.
I began the process of application in the fall of 2015, but I did not get into any school because
my GRE results were late, and I could not reference them. By the way, I self-trained for the
TOEFL and GRE exams. I was duped by the individual who offered to help me register for the
GRE because there were no GRE centers in Ibadan. In 2016, I applied again, fully cognizant of
the requirements for the programs. I also added the option of a second master’s because I wanted
to be infused in the new education system before starting a PhD.
I got into two schools for the master’s program and both gave me scholarships. How did I decide
on which one to accept? Well, it was pretty easy. One of the schools doubted if I had been
properly taught and wanted to know more about the classes on my transcripts (this is normal,
considering the fact that they might not have had previous applicants from that pool), the other
just trusted that I was going to be a vibrant and valuable addition to their community.
Transitioning was hard. Learning Greek was easier, lol. Nashville is a city where something is
always happening and that made me feel on top of the world and overwhelmed at the same time.
I contemplated going back home one time too many. Everything about school was different. I
cried several times (twice) because everything was moving so fast. I also had many good times.
Good friends and good communities made and still make a vast difference in helping me survive
all of the experiences I’ve had. Through all of these, I kept it in the back of my mind that I
wanted a PhD.
In the fall of 2018, I applied to five schools: Chicago Divinity, Emory, Southern Methodist
University, Union Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt. All of them, except Union, were
familiar places I had applied to previously. I got into Union and Vanderbilt. I was offered full
funding by both places and I also received two fellowships (one is named and the other is for
professional development which would fund travels to different parts of the world).
I think asking questions and following up on the answers I got was a vital part of this process for
me. I had no idea of the opportunities available until I spoke to people who shared their
aspirations, experiences and knowledge with me. I have found that not taking pieces of
information offered for granted is such a great deal. Some are useful for knowing what has to be
done, others are for knowing what you need to do differently in order to get a different result. I
put all of these together, had several people go through my statement of purpose and other
essays, and found an advisor who would be able to offer me what I wanted. I knew I always
wanted to teach so when I completed my master’s program at UI, I didn’t search for corporations
offering more money. I applied to schools and serving as a teaching assistant has been a great
help in getting here.
Tips For Future Scholars
Do not let people tell you differently that your dreams are weird and strange or without value.
People want you to place a value on your life and goals for living because a capitalist world
measures achievement based on quantity and that puts so much undue pressure on so many
people. If you believe in something, work towards it. You have no idea how many things are
possible. But possibilities are only apparent and persuadable when one is prepared. Several times,
plans will change, and styles will have to be adjusted but you still get to where you intend to, so
stick with that dream!
Read inspiring stories of other scholars here
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