Today we are excited to share a little interview with Jennifer Agbaire, who is about to finish her PhD in Education, in School of Education and Social Work. Jennifer has been involved in reviving of the award winning Sussex Nigerian Society! They do such much great work, it is truly inspiring! follow and share: @SussexNigSoc
- What were your beginnings at the Sussex Nigerian Society?
I became really involved with the Sussex Nigerian Society in 2016 as a first-year doctoral student, but the society had existed from around three years earlier when a few thoughtful and brilliant members of the Nigerian community studying at Sussex had led the initiative. I served as the Media Officer of the society between 2016 and 2017 before I was elected Vice-president in 2018.
- Everyone can read about the society on Student Union’s website, but what is it actually like to be part of an award-winning society?
It is a fantastic experience to be part of the Sussex Nigerian Society! Being part of the society means belonging to an amiable group with a strong sense of community, an inspiring range of skills, a pleasant way of doing things and such a helpful support structure that can make it easy for student members to consider Sussex University home away from home. For many international students coming from Nigeria, the society has become like some ‘safe hands’ that facilitate blending into an unknown environment and culture without losing a sense of the known. For Nigerian students born and raised in the diaspora, it is a great platform to connect with their roots and have fun doing so. For those who might have no ethnic relations with Nigeria, it is a lovely opportunity to get to know about the country and its peoples while also enjoying the benefits of any needed support with social or academic life. Since I joined, the society has had the tradition for instance, of running a freshers’ support group on WhatsApp for Nigerian students new to Sussex, providing them with relevant hands-on tips to make their Sussex experience beautiful. From popular demand, the group got expanded this year to include over 100 members from all over Africa as well as a few others from Asia and the Middle East. You can find nice stories by some of this year’s freshers posted on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sussexnigeria
- We often talk about the importance of mental health care during a PhD, how do societies like yours support doctoral community in that respect?
I think societies both directly and indirectly support PhD students that are members or that attend their events in various ways especially when the students can get to unwind. As a PhD student myself, I would say that I find the activities regularly organised by the Sussex Nigerian Society a much-needed break from the pressure of doing my thesis. The society’s events are like a mini get-away for me because planning, organizing and participating in them give me something creative, educative, fun and relaxing to do besides stressing about my research and timelines! For instance, we very recently had our quarterly ‘Jolly Hour’ event which this time, involved a Pidgin English competition and a Pan-African film show with lots to eat and drink. This gave me time away from obsessing about my writing, an opportunity to catch up with friends, including PhD colleagues, and do lots of relaxing and laughing. After an evening like that, I go back to my writing feeling refreshed, ‘normal’ and ready again. In addition, the Sussex Nigerian Society runs a somewhat informal mentorship programme whereby undergraduate and Master’s students belonging to the society can get assigned to PhD students within their school who are also members of the society. This sort of volunteering also contributes to the mental well-being of the PhD students who might enjoy the satisfaction of being in the position to give valuable academic support to others.
- Is there an event you organized that you are most proud of?
We’ve organised several events that I’m very proud of and it’s difficult to pick. So, I will just go for the most recent big event which got us the Society of the Month award. It is our Black History and Welcome event themed ‘our identity – exploring culture, heritage and integration’. We had a very exciting time with German-Nigerian Leon Balogun and Nigerian-Indian Olufemi Hughes who both honoured our invitation to come speak about their experiences growing up and succeeding in Europe. Leon is a prominent footballer who is on the Nigerian national team and with Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. Olufemi is a Brighton-based poet and writer.
- How can students get to know about your society- what is the ‘recruitment’ process?
We mainly recruit members during the University of Sussex societies’ fair held at the beginning of the academic session during Freshers’ week. But all year round, we do create awareness of our presence by connecting with the Sussex International Students Support Office, the Students’ Union, the Alumni Office and other societies particularly regarding our upcoming events. We also use our social media pages to get people involved – many students join us by requesting to be added to our Facebook group, for example. We equally encourage our current members to tell their friends, classmates and others about us and what we do.
Thank you for the interview and fingers crossed for your viva, Jennifer! ❤