REFLECTIONS ON MY TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX
I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience at the University of Essex during the period of my Ph.D. (Sociology) degree programme (1988 to 1991). The purpose of my going abroad for study was fulfilled in every sense, as I not only completed and obtained the Ph.D. degree of the University, but also had the opportunity of studying in and experiencing the academic system of a world-class university. I returned to Nigeria with a good understanding of how the academic system should work. The mentorship by my main supervisor (Ken Plummer) has remained indelible since my stay in Essex, and I try to put the experience into practice with my supervisees from time-to-time. At Essex, I was exposed to a student-focused and student-friendly academic system. There are quite a number of things for which I still use the University of Essex as a reference point/model of what and how things should be done. The egalitarian system I was exposed to in Essex is also worthy of note – common toilets, common cafeteria, common bars, etc. for staff and students. This is yet to be achieved in our university system in Nigeria.
Coming to Essex was my first trip outside Nigeria and away from familiar people and environment. However, I must say that the students’ office in the University then helped the quick settlement and integration of foreign students through various organized tours and invitations by social associations.
I cannot also forget my stay in Eddington Flat 7, Room 2 (1988 to 1989) and my good flatmates, although there was the initial cultural shock in terms of social interaction and greeting. Coming from a cultural background in which greeting is a common feature (people greet at all times and several times in a day), it was shocking greeting some people without a response or acknowledgment! Initially, I thought people were being unfriendly, but I later got to understand it was just a matter of cultural difference, as interaction with them at other levels showed that they were quite friendly, accommodating and cooperative.
The staff (teaching and non-teaching staff of the Department of Sociology were wonderful, with the administrative staff demonstrating a very commendable level of administrative efficiency for the smooth running of the Department.
Finally, is the wonderful experience I had with my supervisors (Professor (then Dr.) Ken Plummer – my main supervisor, and then Dr. Anthony Woodiwiss (my second supervisor). In this regard, I must also mention the initial cultural shock in my interaction with Ken Plummer, who encouraged and prodded me to simply call him “Ken” instead of formally addressing him as “Dr. Plummer”. This was not very easy initially, especially coming from a hierarchically structured cultural background. However, this surely helped to enhance the establishment of a good relationship with him and others in the Department.
It is therefore a great pleasure to formally express appreciation to the University of Essex for the remarkable experience I had in the University and to join others in congratulating the University on the celebration of its golden jubilee anniversary of remarkable educational service.
Professor of Sociology and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences,
University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria