In an ‘Open letter to America’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, American Corner Come to Edo-Delta’, in March 2015, I had said that ‘materials in the American corner cover a wide range of subjects pertaining to the United States, such as its policies, society, education and culture. Free Open Access is provided to all materials.
In that letter, I wondered why Edo and Delta States were seemingly excluded when other Nigerian cities like Calabar, Jos, Ibadan, Lagos, Bauchi, Abuja Maiduguri, Enugu, Sokoto and Portharcourt enjoyed the services and information that most American corners provide.
‘It would interest you to know that Edo and Delta peoples are the most widely-travelled of any of the peoples of Nigeria. The states have very good universities, and have a teeming population of young people who are keen on the kind of information, educational advice that could expand the kind of partnership that could help our peoples develop a mutually beneficial relationship. Edo and Delta States have an atmosphere of peace and friendship, coupled with the historical and cultural positions that both states enjoy in Nigeria’, I had said in that letter to John Kerry, published by Alltimespost.com of the USA.
Seven years after this letter, an American Corner, Window on America, WOA, has been set up in Benin City Edo State. It is located at the Glass House on the Airport Road. I visited the Centre recently and found it stocked with materials that can help very bright Edo and Delta students achieve their goals of studying in the United States either through full or partial scholarship if they meet the requirements. The WOA centre does not give you a visa, but helps you improve your chances of getting a visa to study in the US if you are qualified and meet all the requirements. They can offer advice, provide free internet for your educational research only, as against other commercial centres in Benin cities which charge a fee for consultations or advice for educational or travel counsel.
For example, candidates seeking to study in the US via scholarship must have 6 or 7 straight As. They can seek admission to any US university of their choice through the Window on America centre. Those without those kinds of qualifications but can afford to fund their academic careers in the US often get legitimate advice, guidance and counsel at the WOA centre.
My relationship with American corners dates back to the early 90s when I taught the SATs and TOEFL in a private school in Lagos. I sort of ‘partnered’ with the United States Information Centre, USIS, in Lagos to help my SAT/TOEFL students improve on their chances of either getting a scholarship to study in the US, or improve on their chances of meeting the requirements for study in the US – passing the SAT/TOEFL exam. Officials then – Mrs Anyigbo, Mrs Olagbaju, Mrs Atobatele – were very helpful at that time, and our relationship was cordial. That experience – teaching the SATs and the TOEFL helped me write a book published on Amazon, on the writing component of the SAT or TOEFL. The book basically is a reflection of my classes then. It has lesson notes, likely SAT/TOEFL essay questions and possible answers. Here’s a link to that book on Amazon: SAT/TOEFL Essays: lesson notes, questions & answers: Etemiku, Bob MajiriOghene: 9789789196692: Amazon.com: Books
Many years after I left teaching the SATs and TOEFL classes, my relationship with the US cultural centre was to blossom in Abuja, Nigeria. There, the very warm coordinator, Hajia Wosilat graciously invited a cream of literary critics to critique my short story, ‘Journey by Night’, Journey by Night: A Short Story by Bob Majirioghene Etemiku – AfricanWriter.com. It was an unforgettable experience where I just sat there listening to these critics appreciate my short story.
Allow me talk to you about your essay for the SAT or TOEFL, and how visiting the Window on America Centre in Benin City gives you insight to its possibilities.
Both the SAT/TOEFL are standardized and timed tests. They usually have certain components like listening, reading comprehension and grammar sections. One of the most important is the writing section. If a candidate seeking admission to a US university is conversant with the rudiments of literature, politics, and government of the UK and of the United States, history, Geography, Sociology, Economics and some elements of law, the reading, listening, grammar and comprehension passages are as good as nearly in the bag.
But it is your essay – your essay is the most likely component of the SAT/TOEFL or any other test that strategically positions you for consideration for a scholarship – after you meet every other requirements – your academic record, your financial background, etc. I met a certain candidate who wrote a great essay and who eventually had a full scholarship of $40,000.00 for his four-year university adventure. I must admit however, that writing a good essay was not just the only requirement though that got him the $40,000.00 scholarship. There were other considerations. His well-written essay strengthened his application for university admission and subsequent scholarship
The reason the assessors introduced the essay is that it gives them the opportunity to assess your overall psychological, physiological, mental and academic strengths and weaknesses. The word that aptly describes this is in German – the Weltanschauung: a candidate’s overall world view. The Math, the sentence completion, the critical reading, the algebra, all of these do not say everything about you or your cultural and social leaning. These are subjects that you were introduced to much later and much closer to your life as a young adult. What about those things that influenced and helped you to form your peculiar view of life? Where and when were you born, and what were the things that shaped your thinking and thought? What kind of pre-school activities were you engaged and engaged you? What was your parentage like? What schools did you attend? What kind of friends did you make? Did you like sports? Are you sport? Are you religious? Why? Are you political or apolitical? The ETS and College Board are hardly directly interested in these matters but indirectly want to know, and how these matters have influenced and helped to shape you as the unique person that you are.
The assessors looking at your essay do so independently. They take an average score based on their individual scores for your essay. The areas they are mostly interested are word choice or your vocabulary, sentence structure, organization of the essay and idea development. I discussed all of these areas in my book cited above.
Candidates should read books, magazines (the kind abounding at the Window on America Centre), and listen to radio and watch a lot of documentaries. They should just be a little more sensitive to their environment and to the world around them more than the other candidate. They should listen more to CNN, BBC, VOA, and Aljazeera, and to their local radio and television stations as well. Reading magazines and newspapers and listening more to CNN, BBC, VOA and Aljazeera does not just score an academic point: but being a little bit more interested in your environment and what goes on is certainly one very good way to prepare to write.
CALL TO ACTION:
For parents: You can contact me if your ward needs some specialized coaching/classes to boost his/her essay-writing skills (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To Candidates and Young people interested in US study: Go to the Window on America centre on the Airport Road Benin City. Exploit the resources freely made available to plan your academic future.
For any student, candidate or parent seeking legit, authentic advice, option, guidance and possibilities to study in the US for one form of academic or cultural endeavour, the Window on America Centre at the Airport Road is the sure place to go to. You no longer need to travel to Lagos to get academic advice on studying in the US. But if you are looking for visa or anything unconnected with promoting the cultural and educational ties between Nigeria and the US, you should look elsewhere, perhaps those travel agencies in Benin City.