Surviving Oxford as an Ibadan Pharmacy Graduate: A Story of Perseverance and Tips

This week, we had an opportunity to interview a scholar from the University of Oxford, UK. In his interview with us, he shared tips on how he has gotten so far to this stage in his academic pursuit.

The Prosperity Ark

GWC: Can we meet you?

YAA: My name is Yusuff Adebayo Adebisi, a current graduate student studying for an M.Sc in Global Health Science and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford. I was born on the 30th of May and raised in Oyo town, Oyo state, Nigeria.


GWC: Great! Growing up, what were your aspirations, sir?

YAA: Well, for me, it started with being brilliant at school and having the general mentality of wanting to be a medical doctor because I knew I wanted to save lives through health but being a child, I wasn't so vast about other courses relating to health. Then, when I got to SS3, I got to know about the course called Pharmacy so I went in for it at the University of Ibadan after doing well in biology and chemistry.

GWC: That's nice.

So, from being a student at the University of Ibadan to being an Oxford scholar, could you please share with us what processes you embarked upon? Did you write exams and how easy was the waiting period for you?

YAA: Okay, I actually didn't write an exam.

Right from my undergraduate years, I've been involved in things related to global health and research so, I already knew what area I wanted to specialise in and that is what Oxford looks out for in its graduate students. They want people who are convinced about what they want to do and who will be up to take up the challenge over here meaning that you must have passion for whatever you want to study. I built my capacity, learnt more about research and looked out for schools that can fine-tune me in this area so, I applied to Oxford, Nottingham, Southampton and Cambridge and interestingly, I got admitted into the four schools.

For me, I believe that in whatever area you're interested in, there is a school for you. I liked the content of Ivy-league schools like Oxford and I got interested in getting the knowledge which was what propelled me to apply to those schools in the first place.

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For Oxford, there is a comprehensive webpage where you can access everything you need to know. So, being interested, I searched out an appropriate school and then, checked if they had my course of interest on their webpage. From there, I began to prepare my recommendation letters, statement of purpose, curriculum vitae and other documents that were required all in a very comprehensive format and then, I applied. Although it was very competitive, I got in as one of the twenty-nine admitted out of three hundred and fifty-six applicants.

GWC: Wow! Wow! Wow!

So, while growing up sir, who was a role model figure for you and how did they influence you?

YAA: I have many role models and I had thought at one point that if I didn't become a health practitioner, I was going to be a teacher because my primary and secondary school teachers all had a great influence on me because they were passionate about their work. 

But right now, my role models are many because I use a strategy of having role models or mentors. The interesting thing is that there are some people that you admire - you don't have to message them or get too close to them; the world has evolved more than that and social media is a great avenue for you to follow someone you admire without necessarily messaging them. You follow them and learn from what they do and like me, I know a lot of researchers who I haven't met yet, I know a lot about them. In that case, you're more like an "underground follower" so that when you get to meet them one day and get to talk with them, they'll be so amazed at how much you know about them. This is why young people need to maximise the use of social media because all these opportunities are flying everywhere online.

However, my main mentor is Professor Don Eliseolucero-prisno III. I met him in Ife at a global health leadership program when I was in my third year in pharmacy school. He was the course director for the program at that time and he taught us extensively about public health. I was inspired and so, I reached out to him and since then, he has been my mentor and we've shared a close relationship since then like a father to his son and even on my admission, he was the one who wrote my recommendation. When I faced numerous rejections and wanted to stop, he was the one who believed so much in me and encouraged me. So, he's not only my role model, but he is also my mentor.

GWC: Interesting.

Most Nigerian students always look forward to travelling abroad to further their studies, where does the balance exist in ensuring that they do well while in their motherland and yet, keep the hope of studying overseas alive in them? How can we also convince the general populace that the best brains are not travelling out for pleasure but because they want to improve themselves?

YAA: Hmmm…well, first of all, as an undergraduate, you should know that you must do well to get a scholarship to study abroad in the first place so, that popular saying of "School na scam" or "Book na scam" should be discarded because even if you have your money to pay your fees, without a good undergraduate result, you might not gain admission into some universities. So, finishing well in your course of study in Nigeria gives you a greater hedge over someone who finished with a third-class grade or lower. For example, in my class here in Oxford, virtually everyone finished with a first-class from their various schools and those who don't have a very strong second-class upper because of course, it is very competitive at the top.

On the second question of the best brains leaving, let's think about it in another way that these people are going to improve their capacity and they would still come back to use their knowledge and skills to impact and improve the state of the country. However, Nigeria also needs to improve in security and other basic amenities because these also play a role in promoting people to come back. For instance, I know someone who came back from the US and was killed in Nigeria! Instances like this have deterred others from coming back to Nigeria. However, the brighter side is that everyone can not remain abroad forever so, this period is just transient for the long-term impact. Personally, I hope to make an impact in Global health science through research in Nigeria and other African countries.

GWC: Thank you so much for this sir!

Now, the University of Ibadan where you did your undergraduate studies has been known to always claim that they operate at an international standard. Being here, the students cannot know if it's all a false hope fed to them by the university but having tasted both sides, can you help shed more light?

YAA: (Smiles) Well, this is interesting but I would say Nigerian products especially UI products, can compete anywhere. In Oxford here, we have many Unibadan graduates from MB;BS, BDS, Pharmacy and other departments like that and they are all doing well. In fact, I can say that with the number of Unibadan graduates here, Oxford is a second branch (lol). So, in a way, the University of Ibadan inculcated the resilient spirit in us and equipped us with the skills to cope in any environment.

The Prosperity Ark

So, although Oxford seems stressful, I've seen something more stressful at the Ibadan pharmacy school so it doesn't faze me.

But, in terms of amenities and structures, the University of Ibadan is not there yet (lol).

GWC: This is interesting!!!

What advice do you have for students who have been affected in one way or the other because of the educational system in Nigeria?

YAA: Unfortunately, we've found ourselves in this mess but always remember one thing that in a university environment, you are responsible for your learning. So, whenever there are unnecessary breaks like strike action, take that opportunity to invest and build yourself up. From your undergraduate years, start looking out for what you want to do, build your skills, volunteer, and attend conferences because, at the end of it all, your life is your responsibility.

GWC: Thank you so much for this opportunity, I, and by extension, everyone who will read this do not take it for granted sir. 

To our audiences, you can follow our guest on Instagram.


  1. ❤️👏👏👏

  2. Nice one Gbemi of Choice Stone

  3. This is a very nice piece👏👏👏

  4. Very interesting interview

  5. Great interview.
    It really inspired me

  6. I enjoyed reading this!
    The key is to be prepared ahead, have the mindset, be very strong academically and aim to beat competition, most especially, know and do what you find interesting!


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