‘Remember that there were moments when you prayed for this.’ This is a symbolic quote for me at this stage of my life so I have to remind myself time and again. After pharmacy school, I knew there was no way that I would go on with ‘classic’ pharmacy. I was confused, for a while. This was because even though I knew what I didn’t want to do, I didn’t know what I wanted either.
Eventually, I found myself in the beauty and personal care space. I can’t remember exactly how my journey in this industry began, but I immersed myself in it, and I haven’t looked back.
Getting into the EMOTION Master as an ERASUMS+ Scholar has been the defining moment of my career in this industry, so far. After bumping into it during a random Google search, it became my dream program. I applied- twice, and got in!
The reading time says 11 minutes but there are a lot of pictures I shared which increased this time. Enjoy!
My first year was at the University of Eastern Piedmont in the quaint town of Novara, Italy. The first semester was filled with stand-out experiences, for me. Here are some of them:
Realizing That I Had Classmates From Over 10 Countries
In my motivation letter for the program application, I highlighted the diversity that the ERASMUS+ Master’s Programs are known for. Somehow, I was still shocked to know that the students in my EMOTION Master intake were from all continents but Australia. Having lived in my Lagos bubble where everyone speaks English and our native languages, hearing different ones daily, from Spanish to Arabic, Portuguese, French, Russian and the native Italian, reminded me how big the world is.
The Shock Of A Language Barrier
Moving to Italy with English as the primary communication language had me thinking that it would be spoken relatively often here. I was wrong- and that’s on me. I didn’t know a word of Italian before coming here, so I struggled for a while to do the simplest things like grocery shopping and buying a SIM card. With time, a few Italian language classes, and a lot of gesticulation, I can get by now.
Make-Your-Own-Formulation Lab Day
Academics-wise, this was my favourite day. Making my skincare products from scratch? Yes, please! As someone who loves using cosmetics, doing this was one of the brightest lights that reminded me that I am in the right industry, you know? Makes me giddy with hope for my future!
At its core, EMOTION is not a cosmetic formulation-based degree but it forms a part of what we do. I made a face wash, toner and lip balm and this was exciting. This process also helped me realize that, while I appreciate this aspect, I may not want to be a cosmetic formulator. Seems like this elimination method (in choosing a career path) is not doing badly.
Visiting Milan For The First Time
I spent 10 days in quarantine and then went to school after a few weeks, so I didn’t step out of Novara (where my school is) for a bit. Thankfully, my friend Pilar was kind enough to take me to Milan, which is 1 hour from us. It reminded me a bit of Lagos – the chaos and the people. I also realized that it was my first time taking the train. More importantly, it showed me that my world is now a lot larger. It screamed, ‘Desire, you are here now. There is no turning back.’ Also, seeing the Duomo was a peak moment because it’s a gorgeous and phenomenal sight. I’d highly recommend visiting if you get the chance to.
One of the first lessons I learnt here was ‘Don’t eat alone.’ This was said during one of our first workshops and signifies that eating with people helps you bond better with them and improves relationships. As someone who is perfectly fine being alone (maybe a bit too much,) I decided to be intentional about this.
I can say that, yes, it’s great advice. Lunchtime is one of the few times that we get to interact with each other about our ideas, values and culture. We live in different places and when we are in class, we can’t talk too much, so this is a great time to listen and talk to each other.
There are still times when I eat alone, but I know that eating with others is a great way to know them better. I’d also be taking this to the workplace.
Getting Back Into School Mode
I finished my undergrad program in 2016 and started my Master’s program in 2021. That was a 5-year gap. I felt like I had forgotten what it meant to be a student and everything was new.
As a pharmacy student in UNILAG, I carried handbags to school and we were not allowed to wear jeans to classes. Here, I take a pink Nike backpack to school every day and everyone wears jeans – even some professors. The overall contrast in the education system was striking to me and it took me some time to readjust.
Ease Of Communication With Professors
I am still not sure if it’s solely the difference between the Nigerian and European education systems or the fact that I am getting a higher degree, but one thing I have enjoyed is how easy it is to approach the professors. Asking questions in class (and afterwards) is encouraged every single time and asking for clarity or help, on my end, has never been looked down on. Honestly, I appreciate this and makes the experience richer. It may also be an indirect consequence of also being older and bolder, and the fact that we are fewer in class.
Overall, it’s one of my favourite things about being a student here.
In November, I went with the Erasmus Student Network Italy to the annual Flag Parade, held in Rome. We spent the weekend there, and it was my first proper trip away from school. After taking the overnight train to get to Rome, the ‘hotel’ we stayed in was not the best, but oh, the experience of Rome was exhilarating! We visited the Colosseum, Vatican Museum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna and walked around the city. I also did some shopping! Overall, the trip was a most memorable whirlwind for me.
Have you ever heard about the fear of something being bigger than the thing itself? That we suffer more in our imagination than reality?
I dealt with deep anxiety when it was time to prepare for exams. What didn’t I do? Berate myself for not reading during the semester? Ask who ‘sent me message’? Cry endlessly, especially on the days that I simply could not get up to do anything because my mind was in shambles?
After all, I can tell you that I did not need to pressure myself that much. I passed all the exams and learned a lot of lessons about my program and myself. Now, I pray that I can apply them in other life scenarios- because that’s what is important now.
Gelato And More Gelato
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an ice cream fanatic. It’s the instant turn-around for me if I want to feel happy. The fact that I now have easy access to ice cream Pro Max (aka Gelato) is one of the little joys of life that I relish. I enjoy this – maybe a bit too much- but you know what? I am fine with revelling in these pockets of gelato peace.
My classmates and I may not agree on everything, but I appreciate the care and kindness around us. There are cliques, as expected, but as a group, I’ve seen us look out for each other in ways that people do for family. Considering that we just met, it’s heartwarming. Genuinely, I can hold conversations with any of them without awkwardness. My flatmates and I have this small cup (which is actually a candle jar) where we put our toothbrushes. It’s a random reminder that I may be away from home, but I am not away from love and care which is one of the greatest gifts.
An External Outburst Of Frustration
We had our first assignment- a Skin Pathology Journal Club presentation. I hadn’t read the paper and I felt dumb for not understanding it. I don’t know when I stormed out of the common room to the toilet to bawl my eyes out. When I came out, I saw Anusha, Isa and Yasmin waiting to just hug me and tell me everything will be alright- and it was. Moments like these have formed a piggy bank in my heart.
PS. Yes, the presentation went great!
Easy Access To Nigerian Food
I moved here with 2 boxes- one filled with food, so you can imagine how important it was to me. My parents did this so in case I couldn’t find them here, I’d have some to hold me down for a few months.
I realized that I wasn’t adventurous with food when I got here so having the Afro-Asian food store well-stocked with Nigerian food items was a top-tier moment. I am doing much better now with trying new food, but my native meals would always be a safe space for me. They remind me of home in such… inexplicable ways, and that’s important to me.
I am done with the second semester- learning, unlearning and relearning. You know what they say – You never forget your first- and that’s how I look at the first semester.
Looking back, there are things I am proud of doing and others that I wish I could do over, but that’s just life, isn’t it? I am especially excited about the people I have met and I look forward to creating more memories