From Nigeria to convocation
Six years ago, Joseph Makanjuola arrived in Canada with his father and older brother, after the rest of his family (including his mother and other siblings) made the difficult decision to stay in Nigeria. Not yet graduated from high school, he faced the challenge of adapting to an entirely new culture
Six years later, on October 19, Makanjuola will graduate from Ryerson's Biomedical Engineering program, capping off a university career marked by strong academic performance and extensive volunteer work. When asked about the adjustment process, he said: "Ryerson is a place that encourages sharing experiences. It encourages team skills, leadership skills, things that can help you later on in life.
"My first year, I was new and everything was new to me—the system, the curriculum, everything," remembered Makanjuola. "To adjust to it, I had to talk to a lot of people, and my first point of contact was the Tri-Mentoring Program. They really helped a lot, providing a mentor who helped me through my first year. My first year wasn't the greatest, but that assistance definitely helped me in getting myself together."
Makanjuola became an active volunteer in his second year, volunteering as a student ambassador for FEAS Open House and becoming a peer mentor with Tri-Mentoring. In third year, he joined the African Students’ Association, eventually becoming vice president, and was heavily involved in 'Let's Talk Africa,' a multimedia event about the continent's history and issues.
"We had a play in the quad [Tales of Forgotten Africa] that talked to people about what mental health really means to African students and African families. That was a good opportunity to share what was going on in the minds of students. It's something I wouldn't have thought of, and I'm grateful for the team and the previous president of the group. That was one event that helped me to move on to a leadership role."
At the end of his fourth year, he took on a volunteer position as a unit support worker at Toronto Rehab Institute. Working on the neurological stroke floor, he talked to patients, welcomed visitors, and helped nurses with administrative work. Since summer 2015, he's worked as a video game instructor at Real Programming for Kids, teaching students from Grades 3 to 12 how to make video games in different languages.
"Even though going to school, volunteering, and doing a part-time position is a lot of work, it requires you to actually want to commit to it," said Makanjuola. "That happened to me. Toronto Rehab offered that opportunity to spread as much love as I could, while in the process acquiring new skills."
After graduation, Makanjuola hopes to pursue a career in engineering, and eventually go to graduate school for the medical field. Looking back at his time at Ryerson, he said, "Ryerson provided opportunities for me to actually gain leadership skills. It provides a space where you're able to meet people that can relate with you and can help you balance both what goes on in and outside the classroom. You're able to relate to people who have gone through the same things you've gone through, and you can put your heads together and move forward."
Makanjuola is one of over 2,300 students approved to graduate during fall convocation, in ceremonies taking place October 19-20. For Makanjuola, the event will be extra special: his mother will make the trip from Nigeria.
"Oh, she is so excited—she can't wait to come here. It's been six years since I last saw her, and she's been doing everything to support me in terms of prayers and words of affirmation."