Ifeoma lost her dear uncle, her only brother and failed to gain admission to read the course of her choice in a Nigerian university.
But the smile we see on her face when she was crowned the best graduating student with 3.99 CGPA at the Girne American University (GAU) in Cyprus showed how her determination to excel dissipates the ugly experience she went through.
Every Nigerian student excelling academically abroad have stories to tell. Most time, the stories of their academic pursuit in a foreign land are laced with sweet memories of how their academic brilliance and determination earn them accolades in foreign universities.
But for Ifeoma Onuike, the 25-year-old Nigerian, who recently emerged the best student in GAU, it is a tale of tears and sadness occasioned by deaths of family members.
Speaking with Pulse about the hurdles life threw at her, Ifeoma believes the story of her life and the struggle to excel is worth writing about, with all its ups and downs.
As a young girl, she had early memories of tragedy series that are apparently too much for her to handle.
"In secondary school, I lost my Uncle, he was really close to me, as a young girl I could not rap my head around it, that affected me in its own way." This was the first sad statement she made during the interview.
For a brilliant student to go through emotional problems like this, her education is bound to suffer and trust some Nigerian public school teachers, they are often guilty of paying little or no attention to the performance of students who lose their loved ones to alleviate the mental meltdown of such students.
Ifeoma had her share of such inattention by teachers, who don't know how to revive a brilliant student going dull as a result of a death in the family.
Following the death of her uncle, she said, "I had low self-esteem and my teachers did not make it any easy for me especially the ones who knew me and my family. She would call me to provide a solution to the question on the board and if I don't get it she would attack me with words. I cannot forget when she said later your mother will say we are not teaching you very well when it is you who doesn't know anything"
The death of her uncle was painful and as painful as it was, she hadn't learnt how to deal with the loss of a man who liked her so much when she got another tragic blow that was heavier and more heart-wrenching than the first one.
It was another death of a loved one and that according to her is the saddest of all her ordeals.
"During my first degree, I lost my only brother, that was one of my saddest experience and we were in the same school so, most time people refer to me as the sister of the boy that died''.
Perhaps, if at this time the young Ifeoma had actualised her dream of becoming a medical doctor, she would have saved the lives of her family members. But that dream is never coming to pass.
'Growing up, I wanted to become a Medical Doctor. I loved the profession, I want to help people, save lives, treat people so that they don't die and leave their loved ones in pain".
However, since she could not save lives as a medical doctor because her junior exam result was not good enough for science class, she chose to help people through another discipline.
It is this quest to help people that changed her story and brought her to the limelight as an academic champion after writing and failing JAMB; and of course after some unforgettable moment of tears and sadness.
So, in an attempt to make up for the sad memories and make the family happy, Ifeoma resolved to be the best in everything she does and make herself the salt of the earth for her family.
"Aside from being a doctor, the next course I wanted is Law. I love everything about being a lawyer, the way they carry themselves, dressing and all. There is this notion that has been attached to the profession that lawyers are liars so if they are, it means I may not get to help people.
''But I still wanted the course, after writing all the needed exams, I did not get admission for Business Management. I accepted it because everyone I know was going to school and I had to go too. Before graduation, I started looking at the possibility of still studying Law, so I wrote jamb twice, did not get the admission but all things worked out at the end for my good and I found myself in Cyprus."
After Graduating from Nsukka in 2012, Ifeoma made for Cyprus in 2014 to actualise her dream for which she is being celebrated today. But going to Cyprus was not so exciting at the beginning because according to her it was like going back to the stage she has passed.
“I heard of Girne American University North Cyprus from a friend who said it was announced on the radio. I took interest in it because of 50% scholarship. I was thrilled when I got the admission to study Common Law but at the same time had some mixed feelings, going back to a level of education I have passed. It was like starting all over again law department.”
The tragic experience Ifeoma went through as a young girl and the systemic failure that refused to allow her to read the course of her choice in Nigeria has been put behind as the 25-year-old lady now seeks to further her education in Law before coming to Nigeria.
''I will start my masters this fall semester and hope to also go for my PhD before Law school''.
It's been a series of discouraging hurdles but out of determination and strong will, the brilliant lady has surmounted her problems and we can't but say resounding congratulations to one of the beautiful and brainy ladies around.