In summer 2011 John Chigozie Obioma graduated first in the university. This is the commencement speech he delivered at the congregation ceremony

Although I have been introduced as Chigozie John Obioma, I’d like to introduce myself as a storyteller. I’m here to tell a story. It’s a story that we all know or even some of us here are characters in. Here is my story:

Once upon a time, there was a student who, after completing college, decides to go to University. He sits for the University exam and applies to Cyprus International University, in North Cyprus. Perhaps, he lives in the far continent of Africa or in Nigeria or in Azerbaijan or India or even Iran– this student embarks on this journey of a thousand miles across oceans and arrives here.

He is greeted by the warm atmosphere of the beautiful campus of the University. He finds himself in one of the dormitories with the names of a famous castle in Cyprusor in one of the houses in Lefkosa. When classes begin, he is stupefied by the amazingly small size of the classrooms with student ratios that enable easy communication and assessment by the tutor. This student is taught with time-tested, world class techniques in the University so that his pleasure in learning is piqued to the utmost.

But the journey he experiences is not a journey of one or two days, it’s a journey of four years! It’s a long, sometime harrowing journey of warm pleasure juxtaposed with dire ennui. He would sometimes have headaches from mathematics or his vision would blur from reading too much Shakespeare. Yet his Turkish friends would insist with affectionate glee, “çok okumak lazım ya!”

Yet he must continue the journey –he has to.

During the course of this journey he lives his life in this country, learns some Turkish culture, eats some Turkish food and baths in the beautifulMediterranean Sea. During the course of this journey he makes friends, widens his horizons and outlook to life. During the course of this journey, he acquires emotional resources he would invest in his life – he probably picks a wife or a husband. Yet the years roll by slowly, then quickly, and quickly and his time is done.

Then one day, he realizes like every other ephemeral things in this life –that he is merely an interim denizen in this course and that there would be an end –an expected end. And here today, on this sunny evening of June 23rd 2011, this student stands before you all in a gown of black and red to celebrate the end of his journey inCyprusInternationalUniversity. This student, with tear-filled eyes, has come to the end of an era; of a love affair with this great institution. But he is grateful – this student is privileged. He is grateful to all who has made it possible for him to be here today to stand and say: “It is finished!”

He is grateful to God Almighty, he is grateful to his sponsors, to his parents (probably to one Mr and Mrs Henry Nosike Obioma in far-awayNigeria), he is grateful to his friends.  He is grateful to the school administration led by the Rector Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ali Yukselen. He is grateful to Mrs. Hande Gazi who pilots the ship of the foreign students. He is grateful to all the teachers and all those who have taught him anything (probably to Profs. Unsal Ozunlu, Behbood Muhammedzadhe or Filiz Ozbas). He is greatly indebted to this university and he has a promise – to make good use of all he has obtained from here.

This student is glad to have come to the end of the journey. Yet he sees that many more are coming behind him and has a word for them. He tells them to strive and work hard – with hard work, to not forget the one Supreme Being who can help them achieve whatever they want to achieve. To his fellow travelers who have completed the journey he says:

“Be faithful to your call my friends, go into the world with courage, with boldness and with that CIU spirit that is ever relentless. Although you will meet challenges – just like you have met here – your pace will be determined by your brace and your eventual space will be determined by your face. I wish that that face will always be full of smiles and only smiles.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the end of my story. Thank You. Tessekurlar ederiz, sizin hosgeldiniz.

Photos by Abdurrahim Topal