She survived a car accident that claimed her entire family. Now she’s set to graduate with a PhD in Pure Mathematics at 27
Chigoziem Emereuwa is a Nigerian millennial woman who at the young age of 27 is prepped to graduate with a PhD in pure mathematics. Now if this was where her story began and ended, that in itself would be commendable. But her life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. It has come accompanied with more than the average individual’s share of thorns.
Chigo, as she is fondly called lost her entire family to a car crash that claimed all her siblings and both parents. As the only living survivor of her nuclear family, it’s a wonder how she not only gets through life but goes on to become a trailblazer.
What is your full name and what are your interests?
My full name is Chigoziem Emereuwa. I’m 27 years old. I enjoy cooking, baking and more recently, wig-making. It is all self-taught and I continue improving by reading and watching tutorials.
I am not one of those who realised their passion for numbers at a young age. I always wanted to be a chemistry lecturer just like my mum so I planned to study Chemistry in University. I was only 15 when I finished high school and began my university education so when it became time to choose a discipline, my family narrowed it down to Banking and Finance, Mathematics and Geography. I did well in Mathematics but I thought that was normal for every student and Geography was because the environment always fascinated me and I had sworn to travel so I could see more.
I chose Mathematics eventually because it was one of the few subjects that didn’t bore me and I thought it would give me a wider career option in the future. I credit my family for helping me understand my strengths and weaknesses.
When asked about her academics, her eyes light up as she passionately speaks about her PhD and prior Masters Degree. She’s clearly fascinated by her course of study and I can’t help but be happy for her. Chigo is currently doing her PhD in Pure Mathematics where she studies the flow of Chemicals in Porous medium. For her Masters degree in Pure Mathematics, she studied homogenization.
A dark cloud takes over when asked about the incident that changed her entire life. The night she lost her entire nuclear family. On the 17th of August 2001, whilst traveling with her parents, siblings and one of her aunts for her Mum’s sister’s wedding, their vehicle got hit by a truck. No member of her family made it to the hospital as they died in the accident.
“I only remember being in the back seat, playing a travel game with my sister and then waking up in hospital. I don’t recall any form of PTSD as my paternal family made sure I wasn’t alone, I didn’t even get a chance to mourn properly. It seemed like the loss hit my aunts more than it did me so I had to be strong. However, my grades did go down and my mom was no longer there to push me. I felt no urge to work hard since I had learnt that you could lose everything in a second so, why bother?”
As she gets older, Chigo has found support in good friends, cousins that have become siblings and a constant reassurance that no matter what happens, everything works out in the end.
“Every time I wake up, I remind myself that I am my parent’s legacy so I try to stay focused on my end game which is to be better than I was yesterday”.
When asked to describe her happiest day, like a true academia, Chigo describes her Masters graduation. Some members of her family had flown in from Nigeria and some of her closest friends had attended. Their presence had made her feel loved and special that at the end, the certificate didn’t seem that important, she says.
For young women who have been through similar traumatic incidents like herself who have at one point or the other toyed with giving up and losing hope, she advices:
“Take one day at a time, focus on the good and pray if you believe in God”.
In 10 years, Miss Emereuwa would love to be an established researcher making a difference in the lives of orphans. She would also love to be happily married with Kids as she more than most, knows the true value in family.
Chigo would be the youngest to graduate in her class. This is not just significant for herself or her extended family alone, but for her country, Nigeria. Nigeria has suffered bad press in South Africa, so, she is successfully changing the narrative. `Not all Nigerians are fraudulent or up to no good’, she laughingly adds. Her story is one of resilience and strength. The power of a woman so well personified. She serves as a constant reminder that you can get through anything you put your mind to as long as you believe. Your experiences don’t have to define you.