Sam Semako People And Career (PAC) 6 Career Lessons from A Nigerian Ph.D Student In Sendai, Japan

6 Career Lessons from A Nigerian Ph.D Student In Sendai, Japan


I will give this talk in three parts:

1. A fairly long personal story leading up to my being in Japan.

2. Some SIX or so lessons.

3. Questions and Answers.


Here we go!

I have always been very ambitious and as such I decided not to do my undergraduate studies in Nigeria since when I was in high school in Badagry Grammar School. My parents could not even afford the fees for Nigerian Universities talk less of sending me abroad. I had to calm down when I discovered SAT and TOEFL were going to cost $149, that was a whole lot of money for me back then in the years 2000 and 2001.


After my Bachelor’s degree from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), I did not want to go on Youth Service which is a mandatory one year service to Nigeria after graduation. I felt it would amount to a waste of my precious time. My hope was high about the Paris Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences which I was able to apply to by a stroke of chance until it was dashed in March 2011. As such, I ended up in Katsina State, a state in Northern Nigeria, for Youth Service. Interestingly, that one year was one of the best years of my life although I wanted to avoid it at first. I had a rich experience worshipping and trusting God for the fulfillment of His promises.


Before rounding off Youth Service, I applied to Oxford University and things were looking up. I had a telephone interview in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria in February 2012, the same month I returned from service. Guess what? The response letter which was well packaged started with “We are sorry to inform you”. Posting the letter by airmail was like adding salt to injury.


After those two experiences, I just went on to complete my Master’s degree in FUTA while making several applications to Hong Kong, Canada, USA, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, Singapore, Senegal, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Germany Portugal, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, Japan, etc. In the process, I even started PhD in FUTA out of frustration. 


[bctt tweet=”In applying to different Universities; I must have made well over 500 attempts!” username=”@SamSemako”] I had admissions at Loughborough University, UK; Washington State University, USA; Memorial University, Canada; Universities of Porto and Coimbra, Portugal and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. However, there was either no funding or there was negligible funding for the admissions.


I already gave up at different times but I always found inspiration from the Holy Spirit to keep trying. In the long run, I applied for the Government of Japan MEXT Scholarship just like every normal application. To the glory of God, I was selected as 1 of the 8 people from Nigeria out of about 450 applicants. The scholarship turned out to be far better than the best I had ever applied for as it takes care of all expenses! 

Lesson I:

Your orientation, association and level of information will go a long way to determine how your life unfolds. My passion for Current Affairs and Geography right from Local Authority Primary School, Ajara Iluda, Badagry, Lagos State is paying off in infinite ways today.

[bctt tweet=”Your orientation and association will determine how your life unfolds.” username=”@SamSemako”]

Lesson II:

Correct education is being able to read, write, get required information per time and apply it to improve yourself and your environment.


Lesson III:

Strive to be a world class citizen by using Information Technology to your advantage and by being able to use at least two of French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and English Languages in the work environment. These are the Six Official Languages of the United Nations. Today, you can learn almost anything on YouTube and other platforms thereby educating yourself correctly.

[bctt tweet=”Strive to be a world class citizen!” username=”@SamSemako”]

Lesson IV:

Be careful what you wish for, it has a tendency of coming to pass in the long run. Whether small or big, dreams do come true

[bctt tweet=”Be careful what you wish for!” username=”@SamSemako”]

Lesson V:

All humans are the same, whether white or black. Attitude is what distinguishes people. You will thrive anywhere in the world with the right attitude.

[bctt tweet=”You will thrive anywhere in the world with the right attitude. ” username=”@SamSemako”]

Lesson VI:

Remain ‘stubborn’, that is the only guarantee that you will breakthrough. Keep moving in spite of the obstacles, you will ultimately find your way.

[bctt tweet=”Remain ‘stubborn’!” username=”@SamSemako”]

That concludes the lessons. Now, we can take some questions.


Sumbo Olaitan, Lagos: So, did you learn the Japanese language?

Emmanuel Dansu: I am currently undergoing an Intensive Japanese Language Programme. It’s been challenging and fun at the same time.


Daniel Uwaoma, Makurdi: What has your experience in the Japanese education system been and what do you think we as Nigeria can learn from their education to improve ours.

Emmanuel Dansu: 1. The education is properly structured. You can almost always guess someone’s academic level by just knowing the age. At least up to first degree level. You get into elementary school at age 6 and graduate from University at 22 or 23.
2. The academic calendar is stable and it is the same across Japan.
3. There is now a massive drive for Japanese students to study abroad, at least for some time, to broaden their worldview.
4. Japanese is the medium of instruction at almost every level so they hardly have a language problem when it comes to learning.
5. Japan has a 99% literacy level.

[bctt tweet=”Japan has a 99% literacy level.” username=”@SamSemako”]

Daniel Uwoama, Makurdi: Let me ask again, how difficult or easy was it for you to adapt.
Would you say your undergraduate and Masters education in Nigeria was sufficient to help you cope with the PhD?

Emmanuel Dansu: Adapting here was not so difficult because I had read a lot about Japan before arriving here. The Japanese Embassy in Nigeria also gave us some very helpful orientation. Of course, the biggest challenge was the language at first but with the Language School, I am blending well and this is just my fourth month.

Concerning my previous studies, I am not proud of my Master research in Nigeria because I knew I could do better than that. However, I always tried to stay in touch with the realities of my field on the world stage, that has come to be a kind of leveller though I know I will have to fill up so me void still. 😃

[bctt tweet=”Stay in touch with the realities of your field on world stage!” username=”@SamSemako”]

Sam Semako, Jos: So, let me ask this: it is already Sunday in Japan, do they have churches there where you worship?

Emmanuel Dansu: Yes Sir! There are several churches here but because of religious persecution in the history of Japan, only 1% of Japanese are Christians.

I joined a church the very first week I arrived and it’s been so great. Japan is a free society where everyone can practise any religion of his choice without disturbance and without disturbing others.


Ifeoma, Uyo: Are you saying that post graduate programmes in Nigeria is a waste of time?

Emmanuel Dansu: I only talked about my experience. In my University back in Nigeria, I know of world class professors, so working with such people can be great. Nevertheless, we know such people are in the very minority group. I know people who did all their degrees in Nigeria but they are teaching in American Universities right now. Such people get to not limit themselves to the Nigerian way of doing things.

Basically, we need to put in extra efforts if we are studying in Nigeria in order to be world class.

[bctt tweet=”we need to put in extra efforts if we are studying in Nigeria in order to be world class.” username=”@SamSemako”]

Kehinde Gad, Lagos: How many years is the PhD programme in Japan.

Emmanuel Dansu: It is for 3 years aside the Language Programme which is for about 4 months


Sam Semako, Jos: Thanks Emmanuel for this challenging lessons. We are grateful for waking up from your sleep to share with us.

Emmanuel Dansu: It is always my pleasure Sir. I will always do that as often as I am required to.


Sam Semako, Jos: Before we round off, speak some japanese and record and send via audio.

And if it is possible to type that and also post here.

Emmanuel Dansu: みんなさん ごせいちょう どうも ありがとう ございました

Minna-san goseichou doumo arigatou gozaimashita

Everyone, thanks so much for listening.

Sam Semako, Jos: I was just laughing here listening to the language.

Emmanuel Dansu: Daijoubu desu.

It is alright.

Yes O. I keep imagining the Tower of Babel experience.

I am always grateful for the opportunity.



I remain, Sam Semako for People And Career (PAC)!




First obtained National Diploma in Marine Engineering from Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Victoria Island, Lagos State.

He went ahead to do his 1st degree with Federal University of Technology, Akure. Followed by a Master of Technology degree in Industrial Mathematics (Optimization and Optimal Control) from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).

He is currently an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Federal University of Technology, Akure as well as a Pastor in Power and Glory Tabernacle, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.

Emmanuel has won the following awards among several others:
1. Best Overall Pupil in Badagry Local Government 1995
2. Best Overall Pupil in Lagos State 1995
3. Awards in Mathematics, Chemistry and Technology, Lagos State and National Junior Engineers Technologists and Scientists (JETS) Competition 2000
4. Quarter Winner, Flying High, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) 2005
5. ELF Total Undergraduate Scholar 2006-2010

6. Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholar 2010

7. Bronze Medalist, National Mathematics Competition for University Students (NAMCUS), National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, Nigeria 2010

8. FUTA Undergraduate and Postgraduate Scholar 2006 till Date. 

For Emmanuel, the best word in the English Dictionary is ‘balance’. He believes that each person should maintain the required balance in every area of life, namely Spiritual, Physical, Mental and Social.

He is passionate about the academics and development. He hopes to be a renown professor and an outstanding diplomat one day soon. 



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Author: Sam Semako

I am a Career Development Consultant who mentors those who are confused regarding what to do with their lives, or frustrated about their work or struggling to find what they need to do with their lives. I also help train them to become experts in their fields by providing them with significant career-based information, resources (in form of opportunities and networks), and training relevant to their fields in order for them to live their dreams and make a lasting impact in a space of 1 year and beyond.

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