Internship Palava: Landing in America IV
The first time R took me to the store
to shop for groceries and other
household items, I was overwhelmed
by all the options available for every
There were about 10 options for eggs!!
There were several options for chicken,
milk, fruits, and vegetables.
I find it difficult to make decisions when
faced with too many options and my
response to R whenever she asked me
for the option of any item I wanted
was always “the cheapest one”.
R would go on to tease me mercilessly
whenever we went shopping by asking
me for the option I wanted.
I couldn’t afford a vacuum cleaner and
had to settle for one of those long,
plastic broom to sweep my apartment.
However, I wasn’t too fond of it and
I had my mum send me one of those
brown Nigerian brooms all the way
from Lagos. Since I didn’t have a job,
I spent most of my free-time
binge-watching all the TV series I
started back in Nigeria.
The professor who taught the wireless
course whose pre-requisite I failed
was exactly like some of my Unilag
He dictated notes in class and was
always too fast.
Often times, I had to find other people’s
notes to fill in the missing gaps in my
He barely explained what he taught and
whenever he did explain, I never
understood his explanation TBH.
Luckily for me, my Ghanaian friend, J,
loaned me the textbook she used for
the course and told me I just needed
to understand the weekly assignments
he gave and I would do well.
I had come too far just to cram and
pass and I decided I needed to
understand the course at all costs.
Often times, this involved me turning
off my phone and wifi to avoid distractions
and spending hours just study and
understand a few pages of the textbook
and my notes and solving all my
My efforts eventually paid off as I
was able to tutor 3 of my classmates
in the course and score an A,
while some of my classmates performed
poorly, and others were caught cheating.
The professor of the Business course
assigned us weekly assignments
involving an advanced use of excel
which I loved.
However, I under-estimated the mid-term
exam and scored 73/200 while the
class average was 79.
You already know I cried and vowed
to make up for it in the final exams.
I took all my home works very seriously
going forward and would email my
professor or go to see him for any
clarifications I needed. I ended up
scoring 84/100 – second only to the
highest score which was 86/100 - in
the final exams which earned me an
A- to my professor’s greatest surprise.
He told me he had never seen anyone
turn-around their grades like I did
and you already know this compliment
made my head swell.
I enjoyed the lectures in my 2nd wireless
class and did well in the mid-term exam
where I scored 93/100.
I must have under-estimated the final
exams as I devoted more time to my
other 2 courses and ended up getting
an A- instead of the easy A I could
have gotten. I remember walking off
in anger after checking my grade in
the professor’s office and seeing my
GPA was 3.8/4 and not the 4.0
I planned to get.
In my first semester, I wanted to attend
a Nigerian church since I wanted a mode
of worship that was most familiar to me.
I looked up the closest Nigerian church
online, called the number listed and
spoke with the pastor of the church
explaining that I was a new graduate
student from Nigeria.
He offered to pick me up for service on
Sunday and all through the ride to church,
he kept telling me about how a lot of his
members had to work on Sundays and
that explained why his church looked
like it had only a few members but if
I kept coming, I would meet the other
People of God, please ask me how many
of us were in church that day?
4-people including me! The other 3 were
the pastor, his wife, and another guy.
I attended service for 2 more weeks and
we never exceeded 5 members including
the pastor and his wife.
After the 3rd week, I began giving excuses
for not being able to attend church
whenever the pastor called me and he
eventually stopped calling.
Months later when I started another
church and was narrating my experience
to an African girl I met there, she
laughed hard and told me she had also
attended the church a few years ago
and the pastor had told her the
same story yet they were never more
than 5 on any given Sunday.
I joined a fellowship on campus called
CoC and eventually started attending
the church affiliated with it.
The experience was different from what
I was used to but I stayed there the
entire first semester mostly because
the older couple who picked up
myself and other students always
served us a full-English breakfast
every Sunday before church, and food
was very important to a broke student
The fellowship also gave dinner to
students every Friday night and that’s
when I found out Caucasians eat rice
without stew, and the white people's
salad consisted of vegetables like
tomatoes and spinach strewn together
and eaten with ranch dressing which
Anyway, the church was named the
way the churches in the new testament
The same way you had the church of
Corinth or the church in Ephesus was the
same way the church was named after
the city where it was located.
They had no pastor as they didn’t believe
in one person leading the rest of the
church – everyone had equal responsibilities
while they had a person who merely
oversaw their activities.
The only instrument played at the church
was an organ and there was no church
Anyone could raise a song from the hymnbook
and at the end of each song in a sing-song
voice, people would randomly exclaim
phrases like “Lord Jesus”, “Lord Jesus we
love you” or some of the phrases from
the hymn that was just sung.
They had a book kinda like a devotional
which they read during the week and
after the hymns, anyone could get up
and share what they had learned
during the week.
I never read the book and I never got
up to share.
For communion, a couple of guys would
literally all break the unleavened bread
together inside a bowl using their hands
before passing it around.
I found it all weird but the correct breakfast
I was eating every Sunday morning made
me keep going all semester.
I would wake up at 2 am every Sunday
Morning to watch my local church service
in Nigeria though.
I attended a career fair in my first
semester but nothing came out of it.
Internships were a big deal as they formed
a necessary part of your education and
served as the American work experience
you needed to secure a full-time job.
I was initially fixated on an internship
from a Telco but at the beginning of
the second semester when I was yet
to get an internship, I became open to
A lot of good companies recruited from
my school and I was able to secure
interviews with 2 of them – a QA role
at Microstrategy, a software company
and a Technology summer analyst role
at Goldman Sachs, I wrote a bad-ass
cover letter that I’m still Proud of till
date for the Goldman Sachs role.
The interview for the QA role was a
very weird exam which I failed.
But for the Goldman Sachs interview,
I surprised myself.
I was among the few people in my class
that got called for the on-campus
Our professor already told us “everyone
likes a happy puppy” meaning we should
be excited and enthusiastic at our
Me: say no more. I switched to my
extroverted personality and turned on
my charm full-blast and got my
interviewers laughing in no time. I
wasn’t surprised when I got the email
asking me to come to NY for the final
I didn’t own a suit and didn’t have $200
to buy a new suit just for an interview
(I wore a blazer and a skirt for the
on-campus interview) and a friend was
gracious enough to send me her suit all
the way from California while I paid
The email asked me to choose my
preferred mode of transport to NY
- either by air, train or bus - and being
a learner and wanting to show that
I was not a wasteful. future employee,
I foolishly chose the train.
R dropped me off at the train station
and I boarded the train to NY.
I badly wanted to get the job because
Goldman Sachs paid interns well – almost
as much as full-time hires - and I
wanted to live in NY during the summer.
I arrived at the hotel that was booked
for me and it was massive and beautiful.
I was shown my room and it was a
one-bedroom suite with the words
“Welcome, Oluwatoyin Alawode” displayed
on the TV screen.
I was told that I could order dinner from
anywhere and get reimbursed for it but
I was way too nervous to eat.
I arrived at the venue for the interview
the following morning and saw several
candidates from different schools –
I was the only one from my class.
We were given an introduction by one
of the staff and told to mingle with
other staff on ground and ask whatever
questions we might have.
My networking game was zero at the
time and I just went to the breakfast
table and stuffed myself with as much
food as my stomach could take.
My interview venue was in Jersey City
and I and others were taken to the
venue via a very nice ferry which we
were told was only commissioned
the previous day and we were its second
There were 3 stages of interviews and it
would have made a much nicer story if
I said I killed all three interviews but
alas that wasn’t to be. At these interviews,
I wasn’t asked personality questions that
I could bamboozle my way through –
I was asked specific technical questions
that you either knew or not and I mostly
did not know.
At the end of the interviews, an Indian
girl from Columbia university walked up
to me and we got talking all the way to
the train station.
She asked me how the interview was and
I said it wasn’t great.
She said it wasn’t great for her either and
that made me hopeful that at least I could
be the one-eyed man in the land of the blind.
How my classmates got to know I was
interviewed by Goldman Sachs is beyond
me but one of my Indian classmates kept
pestering me to find out if I had heard
back from Goldman Sachs and never
failed to inform me about her friend in
a different department who was offered
Weeks later, when I hadn’t heard back
from the recruiter I emailed her and she
responded saying they’d get back to me
with either an acceptance or a rejection.
No rejection meant hope abi.
That’s how I turned to prayer warrior and
kept begging baba firecracker to have
mercy and let me get the job seeing as
I needed the experience and the money
and vowing to do him proud if I got the job.
Fast-forward to mid-April and I got a
phone call from Goldman Sachs informing
me they would no longer be proceeding
with my application process.
If I told you it didn’t pain me, I would
be a liar and the truth won’t be in me.
To have come so close only to fail is
By this time, a large percentage of my
classmates had gotten internships with
some in places as far away as silicon
The following month, May marked the
beginning of summer and most good
companies were done hiring their summer
interns yet here I was without a summer
To be Continued…