Struggles and Success: Two sides of the same coin

By Michelle Oyiolo

As I sit here, fresh from my graduation, I can't help but look back on the transformative journey that brought me to this moment. My four-year stint at this university has been nothing short of remarkable, marked by numerous challenges, unwavering support, and personal growth.

The first time I visited USIU-Africa was on August 11, 2018. My sister was graduating with an MBA and we attended the commencement ceremony. I looked at the graduating class as they received their degrees. Everybody looked smart and focused, like they knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to go for it and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. I turned to my mother and said, “I’m going to go here one day.”

Sure enough, in 2019, I embarked on my university adventure, brimming with aspirations. However, beneath that enthusiasm lurked a formidable adversary: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The transition to university life was fraught with obstacles, and I found myself struggling to balance academics and emotional well-being. The constant battle with my own mind, the self-doubt, and the feeling of never quite measuring up weighed me down. I always felt like I was lagging behind my fellow students and needed to put in more effort to keep up.

As time went on, I made two of the most crucial decisions of my life: I visited the university counseling center and joined the gym. These steps were a turning point, a lifeline extended to me in the sea of self-doubt and uncertainty. The counselors provided a safe space where I could candidly discuss my struggles, offering invaluable guidance and coping strategies with no judgment. They taught me the importance of self-compassion and mindfulness, tools I carry with me to this day. On the other hand, joining the gym was a transformative decision that not only improved my physical health but also gave me a means of quieting the thoughts racing through my head. The gym became my sanctuary, a place where I could refocus and regain my energy. It gave me a sense of accomplishment that can be hard to find elsewhere.

In the midst of my university journey, the world faced an unprecedented challenge - the global pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak drastically altered the landscape of education, as universities transitioned to virtual learning environments. This sudden shift to online classes brought its own set of challenges. Staying motivated and focused in the isolation of a virtual classroom was a new test of determination and resilience but I had a lot of support from my fellow students, with whom I shared a lot of late nights and online study groups just to get by.

In 2022, my world took a devastating turn when my father was diagnosed with cancer. The news was a profound shock, and I found myself struggling to balance the demands of my studies with being there for my family. As his condition worsened, I had to confront the looming reality of his eventual passing. In 2023, he left this world, and I lost not just a father but a pillar of support.

Amidst the trials and tribulations, my university experience was enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way. Lifelong friendships were forged, and it was their unwavering support that carried me through the darkest days. Together, we navigated the complexities of academia and life, sharing both laughter and tears.

As I reflect on my journey, I can wholeheartedly say that joining USIU-Africa was the best decision I made in my life. This is more than just an institution of higher learning; it's a supportive community, a world of opportunity, a home. It’s a place that welcomes you and allows you space and time to discover who you are and where you want to go in life. It’s played a pivotal role in my journey towards becoming the person I am today.

Though my path to graduation was far from conventional, marred by adversity and loss, it is precisely those experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. I am a testament to the power of resilience, the importance of reaching out for help, and the invaluable role of personal connections in our lives. It’s been a true privilege to study at the United States International University-Africa.

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