CHOOSING BETWEEN EDUCATION OR AMERICA — LINDA IHEME
How many students can give up their semester examination for a trip abroad? Linda Iheme took the bold step to forfeit her semester examination for a trip to the United States of America, was it worth it? Find out in this interview with Linda Iheme.
The belief and aspiration of every Nigerian youth in a tertiary institution is to graduate from school and get a good and secure job to live their dream life and to overcome the challenges that life has to offer. But such is not the case of Linda Iheme, a medical student at the University of Benin, who before adorning the garment of convocation has made a name for herself and also made an impact and contribution to the society.
You’ve added a lot of profile to your C.V can you tell us a bit
I am Linda Iheme, an African woman. I am the Chief Executive officer of IIF YIGAD (International Initiative for Youths Inspiration, Growth & Development), a non-profit organization that focuses on spreading the idea of social entrepreneurship among young people through seminars and one-on-one mentorship. Many know me for my popular show called "Lunch with Linda Iheme" Most importantly, am a dentist to be in a few days! I am currently a final year student studying Dental Surgery at University of Benin. It would interest you to know that all we will be talking about, I had actually managed them all with my medical studies. It’s like fitting two big elephants into a small hole.
How were you able to manage career and school?
Well, first I have to say thank God. But I had to make a lot of sacrifices meaning that I either had to read extra hard to make up or in some instances, I used wisdom to choose what project to get.
What inspired you into being who you are?
‘The fear of whom I don’t want to be’ I have seen many people live the life of wishes. Wishing they could do this or do that. I wondered deeply why they didn’t just go ahead to do all the good things they wanted. I noticed something unique. For a lot of these persons, the limitations they saw only existed in their heads. I wanted to be different. I wanted to have a different testimony. I made conscious effort to do anything I dreamt of. Guess what, it.
How were you able to achieve it or make it work?
The first place I won the battle was in my head. The rest were about taking risk. Should I say that the ability to take risk help a great deal. For instance, in my third year in school, I was selected to represent Nigeria in a program in the USA, unfortunately for me, this program clashed with my exam. A lot of friends advised that I stay back and take my exams .Of course nobody knew including me, that such an examination could be moved for just one candidate. So it was pure risk! I officially wrote to the school appealing to be excused, and then I traveled. Several weeks after I left Nigeria, that request was granted. For anyone who knows Nigerian medical and dental schools, this is definitely something uncommon. Yet it happened. Sometimes you may need to take risk. Nothing good comes easily they say but never taking no for an answer is the way to start!
Did you later write the examination?
Yes, I wrote the examination when I returned. You said you were selected to represent Nigeria in USA, how It was for The Study of United States Institute for Student leader On Social Entrepreneurship.
How did you start your foundations and how are you able to finance it as a student?
For the Non-Governmental Organization, it was a product of the USA trip, during the trip; I was trained on social entrepreneurship. So when I returned, I felt the need to spread this concept, so I spoke to some of my classmates and that was how we started the NGO We got our first funding from Ashoka Company, they are based in the USA and fund social enterprises. When they became convinced of our dream that was all that matters though a largerpart of the funding has been from personal fund from the members
What were other factors responsible for your success?
Definitely the people around me, you may be good but if the relationship you have with others is poor, you may keep losing opportunities, because nobody will nominate you or vote for you.
Is your foundation only helping youth in your location?
Is there any plan of moving beyond your limit in the nearest Definitely, expansion is only natural.
Tell us about the awards you’ve won and how you merit those
Over all Best student; Radio Nigeria quiz, 2005, Best graduating student 2006; Government Girls Science secondary school Federal Government Scholarship Award, 2009, Agbami ScholarshipAward, TOP 35 Under 35 CEO 2013, African Youth Role Model, 2014 Assoc iate Fellow; commonwealth society Anofi and Grace Guobadia Scholarship Award 2010 Rev. TONY AKINYEMI FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP AWARD 2011 and several others, Majorly because of my outstanding academic results
What were the challenges you encounter and how did you submerge them?
One of the biggest challenges was having to combine my medical studies with so much extracurricular activities as I said earlier, it’s like fitting two elephants into a small bucket God is faithful, he saw me through, but moderation is the key.
What other plans is Linda looking into in the next five years?
It’s a secret, sit back and watch out (Laughing out loud).
If you were given a slot in governance what position will you take and how will you use it to change Nigeria?
I am passionate about young people like myself and any opportunity at all will be utilized to propagate youth development.
What is your last thought to the young people out there?
Our greatest limitation is our minds as young people. Be mindful not to limit yourself.
This interview was conducted September 2015