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Meet Opeyemi Aborisade, a Scholar with Two Masters Degrees in Mathematics and Perfect GPA!

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

Scholar: Opeyemi Aborisade

Undergraduate Course and Grade: Mathematics, Second Class Upper

Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan

Graduate Course and University:

1st Masters uni: African Institute for Mathematical Sciences

1st Masters course: Computational Mathematics 

1st Masters grade: Distinction 

2nd Masters uni: North Carolina A&T State University 

2nd Masters course: Applied Mathematics 

2nd Masters grade: 4.0

When I gained admission into University of Ibadan to study Mathematics, a friend of mine made me question my choice of course of study. She told me as a dentist she would be graduating with double honors but Mathematics is a single honor course. Those few words shaped my week bitterly, because my choice of study was what interested me from the options I had. That was the beginning of my understanding that we are all destined for greatness in different ways. I didn’t realize what it meant to strive for a good GPA until my 3rd year. I just wanted a phase in my life to come to end. I always knew/told myself that if you study Mathematics, it’s either you lecture or you work in a financial institute. I knew lecturing wasn’t my calling, and that defined my dream of being a banker/an accountant. 

I graduated from college and during my NYSC days, I decided to start Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations and at the same time applied to UI for a masters degree as a backup plan for my no job situation. I always thought studying outside Nigeria was for first class students only, but I was wrong. Towards completion of NYSC, I got the information about AIMS (African Institute for Mathematical Sciences). This opportunity was fully funded and I became a MasterCard scholar through this opportunity.

Within this 10 months, a lot of things changed. I started to see myself as more of an academic compared to an accountant I dreamt of. I did my thesis in finance, and worked remotely with an awesome professor in Optimal control and Stochastic modelling field, all the way in Norway. I could recite my thesis from page 1 to the last page even though one part of me knew I wanted to do more in the data science field.  We are in the era of big data. 

I got information about North Carolina A&T State (NCAT) University from my cousin's best friend and that was where it started from. I applied to the school and got my admission in Applied Mathematics before I finished my first masters (GRE was waived for me because I had a masters in a related field already). You would think why Applied Mathematics again right? I thought so as well, but it was the best decision I made. IT department in NCAT is 80% online, so no funding. I just had to drift to where the money was without losing so much focus. I had partial funding, then I deferred my admission because I was busy looking for full funding.

When I got back to Nigeria, reality set in. I started the job search, had several interviews before I made it to Leadway Assurance Graduate Trainee process. I enjoyed every piece of it, I felt like working class material already. I told myself maybe it’s time to embrace my initial dream of being an accountant and ditch Data Science, lol. Almost a month after the graduate trainee program, they didn’t get back to any of us since we had a WhatsApp group chat we communicated through. That was when I remembered I had admission to a school in the USA.  I started my I20 (admission letter for international students) processes and submitted all the required documents. I made this decision ending of November, and classes were set to start in January when funding is minimal. I applied for visa and I was granted in December, then I felt now was the time to inform my mum properly what my next step was. She knew roughly I was trying to process a school in the USA. At first she wasn’t cool with the idea of traveling without having my complete tuition, because she knew the debt would fall back on her. After much persuasion and talks, she agreed.

I made the decision to resume at NCAT without funding after deferring my admission for a semester. When I was ready to resume, they had given out my partial funding. I wasn’t bothered, because I was ready to take the risk. A friend told me “so far you can afford your flight fee and ready to hustle, you should make it out alive”.

When I resumed, I started the funding scouting journey, from one professor to another. The graduate school crew must have thought I worked there because of my frequent visits. When God will have it, I got my partial funding back, and this time around with Graduate Assistant (GA) position (working 20hrs in a week). This time I didn’t have to worry so much about my tuition, but my living expenses. I still had to pay tuition slightly less than $1000 per semester (due to taxes removed). I mean this is worth paying as an international student compared to $11,300 per semester. Together with my teaching assistant job between the hours of 9-4pm, and my normal class between the hours of 4pm to 8pm, I worked as a cashier in a restaurant, then I switched to baby sitting as a side job. I just wanted to stop depending on friends and family. I have awesome friends that turned family. They never made me for once regret coming to the USA to seek greener pastures. 

I was lucky to get an internship position with IBM in my first semester. At the point when I taught my finances will be settled, guess what? Policies from United State Immigration restricted me from going (international student can’t work outside until they have spent a full academic year - 2 semesters preferably). I forfeited the offer but I knew it was for the best (my saddest moment in the States so far). I struggled to get a research assistant position in Agriculture extension dept for that summer (this is story for another day), because I really couldn't sit down for 3months doing nothing when there are non-bargaining bills to be paid monthly. 

Second semester began, with my normal timetable, GA job, classes and side job. At this time, I was used to this lifestyle. By the end of my 2nd semester, there was a full time position available as a Data Scientist in IBM. It was a rigorous process, but I came out strong. This opportunity didn’t call for relaxation academically, because I wanted to prove myself wrong for not graduating with a first class. I took my elective classes from Computer Science dept and even had a lecturer in Computer Science dept to co-supervise my project. On May 12th, I graduated with another Masters in Applied Mathematics. I made a perfect 4.0 GPA. In few days I will be resuming my job.

There are so many hidden facts and personal stories left untold in this little write up but I will put an end to it here and admonish you to take this points to heart.

  1. Know what you want.

  2. When you finally know what you want, be sure you want it not because it’s what people think it should be.

  3. Information is key. Stoop too low to get the right information and ask questions. Let them say you are too inquisitive, that’s their problem. I didn’t get the internship/job because I’m a superhero, i was encouraged by a friend to attend National Society for Black Engineers conference. If you know me here, then you will be forced to know what NSBE is about.

  4. You can’t do it alone. If you are a loner  as a student in the USA, lot of info will crawl by without you knowing. If I knew about a lot of things a long time ago, probably i would be in the next phase of my life already.

  5. Hold on tight to your dream and chase hard.

  6. If you know God, don’t stop believing in him. When ever I give my elder sister updates, she will always say, “God is just on your side“.


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