By Ashley Ancordi, Community Manager, SFAN.
It’s been a little over 60 days since my last day at Lancaster University Ghana as a student.
In retrospection, I want to shed some light on the realities of #StudentLife and offer useful tips on how any student can use his or her school as an accelerator to success in today’s digital world.
It’s said that the person you are today is the person you were building to become 5 years ago.
Now, if you had this awareness 5 years ago, would you have altered any of your life choices? Would it have made a difference in who you are today?
For me, the university period means transitioning from an adolescent to what I call an “adole-dult”. That is, an initiation into the real world everyone talked about. The stark reality is: this is only a tiny window to the real world because you’re still dependent on your parents for most basic necessities of life.
Looking back, I think I’ve always had a foot in the real world. As a little girl, I watched my Dad build his construction business. In high school, my friend and I founded an online fashion shop. And then as a freshman, I joined SFAN as a projects manager – collaborating with the team to create events that hosted all types of entrepreneurs, diplomats, and corporate executives. These experiences made #StudentLife a lot easier for me.
To help you navigate your own journey and make the best of this important stage of your life, here are three useful tips:
1. Build quality relationships
We all know someone whose father’s friend’s wife’s brother is the President of the Republic. However, if you don’t have that privilege, you need to do the legwork of building your own traction. I don’t suggest you become creepy though; showing people your true value through your work and attitude would speak for itself. When the time comes for your lecturer or supervisor to recommend you, it becomes so much easier for him or her to find the right adjectives to describe you.
Solid friendships go long way, trust me. I could count the number of friends I have on one hand. Sometimes, it’s good to have a thousand friends that know the “who” and “what” on campus. But making sure you have few friends you can depend on does help one keep one’s sanity on those days you just can’t deal with the ups and downs of campus life.
As human beings, we make new connections as we go through life. These connections help to expand your network and extend your influence. You might not know where you could use your important contacts so keep an open mind when dealing with people.
My role at SFAN started as a result of a tiny conversation with the founder at a World Bank event I volunteered for. Three years later, I have worked with SFAN on events that hosted high-profile executives from major multi-nationals, diplomats, startup entrepreneurs, investors, and the media. It is worthy of mention that the French Embassy in Ghana announced the French Tech Ticket during a business breakfast meeting I managed in 2016, and the 2017 edition hosted delegates from both the U.S Embassy and French Embassy.
I have learned how to plan, coördinate, and essentially executive different types of events on a budget and with expected results.
2. An internship experience is priceless – make the most of it
To me, one of the many advantages of attending Lancaster University Ghana was the many internship opportunities to choose from each summer.
Making sure you find something to do with your summer vacation is often a big headache, but if you plan, you can avoid that drama. One thing to always remember is to not regard an internship as a part-time job to earn a salary. Some companies do not give any allowances because “you need them more than they need you.”A lot of companies are willing to use free services every once in a while so if your University does not give you enough internship opportunities, seek the opportunity yourself!
An internship experience is an essential building block in discovering more about yourself and the world of work. This goes a long way in accumulating months or even years of experience you can put on your résumé.
However, be active in improving yourself by seeking feedback from your supervisor. A person who seeks feedback constantly is more self-conscious, with a higher emotional intelligence than a pompous know-it-all.
Furthermore, making vital connections with the right people during your internship goes a long way in opening the right doors for job opportunities.
3. Be more independent as early as possible
Think about this: for how long can you support yourself before you start asking your parents for money?
Gone are the days when you wait for your parents to do everything for you. Having a personal source of income made me more aware of my spending habits and frankly speaking, it made me too economic for my liking. It is debatable whether living alone on campus prepares you for a life of independence when faced with challenges – socially and financially – in the real world. I never attended a boarding school or stayed on campus, however, I think that socially, living with others and away from home, builds one’s character from within. It helps you bring out different sides of yourself that you may not have discovered until now.
I learned independence from building Red Vine Apparel after high school – selling female clothes on Instagram.
It’s never too late to seek an extra source of income. The truth is that adulthood comes with responsibilities and you have to start working on meeting these demands as early as possible. Take responsibility for your life and results.
Also, learn to have your own opinion. Always make an effort to speak up and make your voice heard. There are no wrong or right answers as long as you can defend your point. And as my Marketing lecturer used to say, nothing is always sacrosanct.
Procrastination is actually a university student’s best friend and worst enemy when it comes to meeting deadlines.
My last year in school was the hardest because it required more reading and a more refined touch to my academic papers. I had to also learn how to manage my deliverables without losing the trust of my team or letting my work conflict with my academics. This is where good communication plays a key role.
If you are writing a dissertation, be aware that you will experience a lot of rejected work from your supervisor. Procrastination is actually a university student’s best friend and worst enemy when it comes to meeting deadlines. I had to apply discipline with my time to meet deadlines of submissions. However, I saw tears and sweat from my course mates as they desperately tried to meet dissertation deadlines.
You might have group members sent from the devil himself and handling situations like that will need high tolerance and patience. These are attributes you will find handy when dealing with team members at work because people are people everywhere.
If I can go back in time, one thing I would do again is starting a business as early as possible and sticking with it. On the other hand, the very thing I would do differently is to stay on campus. Like, I totally missed out on the late night group studies and pranks, the little moments that would have made my university experience “complete”.
The Woman I Have Become and Who I Want to Be
My advice to readers who are yet to start university is: this will be one of the best times of your life! It is the bridge between your teenage years and the real world of adulthood.
Whatever you do now is preparing you for who you will be tomorrow. It’s okay to not have a job right after college, as long as you are not giving up. It’s also okay to not be financially stable, as long as you are not too hard on yourself.
Life goes on. Your current situation will not define who you are for the rest of your life. You will meet people from all walks of life during your university and afterward, these contacts will help you think about yourself and the kind of person you were, are and will be.
I can’t say that I’m where I aimed for at this stage of my life but I’m learning new things about myself every day and growing with every new task. I have a good support system and a better understanding of what I want from life. Most importantly, I have a clear vision of the impact I want to make in this world – I want my life and my work to help young people everywhere to live their best selves.
About the Author
Ashley Zakia Ancordi is a social media entrepreneur with a great passion for art and how they tell compelling stories. With an undergrad degree from Lancaster University Ghana in Business Management, she has a particular interest in helping youths live to their better selves and bring out their potentials. Ashley is the community and projects manager for SFAN. Follow her on LinkedIn.
Featured Image Credit: Lancaster University Ghana