…Faisal Hamman emerged as the overall best graduating student at Isik University in Turkey
If you talk about young Nigerians breaking boundaries and shooting for the stars, Faisal Hamman is one of them. In July this year, the 20-year-old emerged the overall best graduating student at Isik University in Turkey, after he made a GPA of 3.98 on the scale of 4.0. In this interview with Nigeria Today’s Biodun Busari, Faisal shares the story of his journey to academic excellence, his aspirations and what the Nigerian authorities can do improve the learning environment. Excerpts.
NTN: Once again, congratulations on your achievement. We are very excited and proud of your academic feat as the best graduating student from a University at Istanbul in Turkey. Who is Faisal Hamman? Tell us about yourself?
FAISAL: My names are Faisal Adamu Hamman (20). I hail from Adamawa state, Nigeria. I reside in Abuja with my parents (who are both Engineers) and my siblings. I completed High school in 2016, from Capital Science Academy Kuje, Abuja and graduated last week from Isik University, Istanbul, Turkey.
I love sports and spend most of my free time playing football, basketball and tennis. I am a reserved and curious person.
While growing up, I used to wonder how gadgets works. I disassemble and re-assemble computers, phones, calculators and other gadgets out of curiosity when I was a kid. I also carried out basic science experiments I found on the internet and watched science documentaries.
Generally, I would say, I had an urge to know more about nature. When I was in Secondary school, Math and Physics were my favorite subjects. These are the things that motivated me to study Engineering.
NTN: What did you study?
FAISAL: I studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Undergraduate Program in English)
NTN: What would you say was responsible for your academic success?
FAISAL: Firstly, my sheer passion for my field was a major factor in my academic success. The fact that I was already interested on how gadgets works made the understanding of the course easier for me; coupled with the fact that I was well-grounded in science subjects- I have 9 distinctions in WAEC (7 A1s and 2 Bs).
I also study to learn and satisfy my curiosity rather than just passing my courses.
Secondly, the encouragement from my parents played a vital role. Finally, the mentorship and motivation I received from my Professor, Prof. Dr. Yorgo Istefanopulos, who obtained his Phd from MIT, USA in1972 and taught in various institutions in USA and Turkey, catapulted me to excel and become the Overall Best Graduating Student for the set of 2020 with a GPA of 3.98 on the scale of 4.0.
He refers to me as one of the best students he has come across throughout his teaching career. Prof Yorgo is an academician par excellence and my revered mentor.
NTN: How did the school authorities respond to your performance? Were they taken aback? Did they accept you or acknowledge your abilities reluctantly? Did coming from Nigeria make any difference?
FAISAL: In the beginning, my professors were amazed when they noticed I had a stellar performance. My consistency in maintaining these A grades surprised them even more.
I have been the topper in my department right from the first year; these academic successes earned me a merit scholarship.
The school accepted my capabilities and performance joyfully. The Turks are hospitable people so where you come from or your race is immaterial.
NTN: What does the academic environment feel like in Turkey in relation to lectures, learning apparatuses and social cohesion? In what ways do they differ from Nigeria’s?
FAISAL: In Turkey, lecturers put in a lot of effort to ensure their students comprehend what they are being taught.
Also, they are extremely friendly, supportive and well qualified in their various fields (most of them obtained their PhDs from Ivy League Universities).
In addition, the lectures are interactive and easy to understand. Universities in Turkey are also well equipped with the necessary infrastructure to aid learning.
The student to teacher ratio is balanced unlike what is obtained in Nigerian Universities. As for the social environment, I would say it’s amazing because everyone tries to support one another irrespective of nationality, race, gender and religion.
Here, we strongly believe in learning together as a group, leaving no one behind.
NTN: Are there many Nigerian students in Turkey? What are general perceptions about their academic capabilities?
FAISAL: There are many Nigerian students in Turkey. Turkey has one of the best educational systems in Europe and Asia, therefore, it is not surprising at all that many Nigerians choose it as their study destination.
As for the second question, honestly, I would say the general perception of Nigerians academic capabilities in Turkey is positive.
I would add my voice to what the CEO of Bluestream Educational Limited (an Abuja based International student’s consultant) always advice Nigerian students to maintain good behavior and try to excel in their studies so we can be good ambassadors of our country.
NTN: Some folks have advised you to stay back in Turkey and explore opportunities rather than coming home. Have you made a decision yet? If yes, what has inspired your decision?
FAISAL: There is no place like home. As President Muhammadu Buhari said, “We have no other country than Nigeria, we should remain here to salvage it together”.
At the moment, I intend to further my education in the USA. After I am done, I would return back to my country to contribute my quota in the development of my fatherland.
My goal is to use Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) knowledge as a tool to empower the youths.
NTN: Given your experience, in what aspects do you think the Nigerian authorities can improve in academic environment to boost learning?
FAISAL: Firstly, the Nigerian authority should provide modern infrastructure and ICT facilities in the tertiary institution.
We live in a digital era and we must adapt to new technologies to boost our educational sector. E-learning must be implemented in all our Universities, to make our education competitive.
Secondly, Government should invest humongous amount of funds in education. A comfortable and secure learning environment should be provided.
Laboratories should be equipped. Research grants should be provided by government and the private sector.
The university lecturers should also be trained on use of technology to enhance learning. Lastly, government should proffer a lasting solution to the age-long ASUU strike.
NTN: How did you adjust learning as an individual to COVID-19 as a Turkish student? How did the pandemic affect learning in Turkey?
FAISAL: My school closed mid-march due to the pandemic. Luckily, we were able to transit to virtual learning in just about 2 weeks of closure.
Online classes weren’t easy in the beginning. It was incomparable to in-person learning. Interactions between students and teachers were not easy.
Gyms, sports facilities, recreation centers and social centers were all closed during the lockdown due to COVID. This led to disillusion…. It was really difficult, however, as time went on, we learned to adjust and acclimatize to the new normal.
Since I live on the school campus, I had to move my study materials from the comfort of my room to the study room, where I could concentrate better.
I also created Zoom study groups with my friends and classmates so we could study together and interact with each other. I did not allow the unfortunate situation to affect my studies.
NTN: Tell us about the use of technology in learning in Turkey. How does Nigeria compare?
FAISAL: In Turkey, technology plays a very crucial role in learning. Assignments and projects submission, viewing course content, slideshows, checking grades, keeping up with attendance, and a lot of other activities are carried out through an online portal.
This e-learning platform ensures that most academic tasks are done in an orderly manner, and without any difficulty. It provides ease for both the students and lecturers.
Furthermore, technology is also used in the laboratories to help students get a deeper understanding of what they have learned in class, this is achieved through practical learning.
The case might not be the same in most Nigerian Universities, especially the public ones, where the infrastructure is lacking, power is epileptic and internet service is unreliable.
NTN: Do you have any special moments you’d like to share about studying in that country as a foreign student from Nigeria?
FAISAL: There were so many outstanding moments. I made new friends from different parts of the world, which allowed me to learn about other cultures.
My best moments were those shared with friends. I also enjoyed visiting beautiful and historic places in the wonderful ancient city of Istanbul.
Seeing historic sites was incredible. Hagia Sofia and the Blue mosque were my two favorite tourist attractions.
Additionally, trying out new cuisines and glancing at the numerous oceans surrounding the city are also some of the iconic moments I would never forget.
NTN: How did the school authorities celebrate you? Any recognition or special rewards?
FAISAL: Thankfully, I got a lot of recognition and rewards from the school. I was honoured to deliver the valedictory speech during our virtual graduation ceremony held on 25th July 2020.
I was also offered a fully-funded scholarship for a Master’s program in the University. A trophy and a certificate were awarded to me by the Rector (Vice Chancellor) as the best graduating student for the class of 2020.
Turkish news journals interviewed me. My academic success story was published on many Turkish newspapers, my school’s website and its social media platforms.
NTN: Thank you for your time. We wish you all the best in your academic pursuit.
FAISAL: Thank you for the opportunity to interview me.