Memkoh Testifies: A Name you should know Part I

It's been an interesting year for me, to say the least.  You have not heard from me in a while (save on Instagram). "The Blacksmith" was putting one of His iron rods to a test. We say God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient, right? Stay with me till the end of this 4-part series where I testify about the new name of God and exactly what role He played in my life - all of it of course.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, now and even for ever more, Amen.

Beloved brethren, I am a woeful sinner; I have sinned against heaven and earth. I have sinned in all forms – my thoughts, words, actions, deeds. I sin when I try to make things go my way instead of allowing you Lord to take preeminence. I sin when I lie and fail to proclaim your name. I sin when I allow myself to be ridden with fear, instead of letting your Holy Spirit calm my nerves and entire being.

Dear Holy Father, I ask that you forgive these sins I commit regularly, knowingly or unknowingly. Please wash me, cleanse me and give me the ability to sin no more in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Father I will testify of Your Holy Name because You have made my life a testimony, You have convicted me with Your praise and I will sing of your goodness.

Earlier this year, precisely in the month of January, I received an email from my academic institution, University of Houston, stating that I could no longer continue with my Masters of Biomedical Engineering program, because I had failed to meet my conditional admission requirement of getting “acceptable GRE scores”. I still remember how confused I was when I received my admission letter in the mail in the summer of 2014. I scanned it several times to see what “acceptable” scores were because my admission letter stated that I had been offered "conditional admission" to the Masters of Biomedical Engineering and that I had to retake the GRE and receive acceptable scores. No part of that letter stated what the scores were. For fear of losing my spot in the program and having to take this exam during the Fall term, I retook the GRE that summer before classes begun at UH. Like every test taker, I used the GRE score reporting service to report my scores, hoping for a feedback from the school before resumption. I waited and none came. So in the Fall, I took classes, certain that although my scores were slightly lower, I had been cleared to continue with classes. I had also met with my advisor severally and she made no mention of my scores or conditional admission.

At the end of the Fall semester however, I didn’t do too well. My GPA shocked me and I told myself I had to do better. I hated Houston - the people were not friendly and welcoming in that everyone gets in their cars and drives leaving no room to meet and interact with people. It was so big and I needed a car to get around but had none. Most of my living expenses were spent on transportation; on weekends, I couldn’t go out except when my friends wanted to; everything including grocery shopping had to be planned and I had to start buying in bulk with the little money I had. I couldn’t wake up one morning and realize I’m out of shower gel because the cost of taking Uber to CVS would buy enough shower gels for 3+ months. It was entirely frustrating. I missed little Ol' Philadephia where everything was a walk or train ride away and my friends lived next doors. Houston life was tiring and the school I enrolled in held no promise for me. There was no sign of extracurriculars that would engage me. Matter of fact, during my first meeting with my P.I (Principal Investigator), he told me “I see that you were really involved in your undergrad, I hope you won’t bring that here”. It was his way of telling me to focus more on my academics and be less involved because graduate school is different. I understood him but I still remember how his words hurt my spirits and made me a shadow of myself. Instead of plunging into activities that kept me alive and going, I would go to class, then lab then go back home. So when I saw my Fall term grades, I knew what had happened. I had let all of this and more get to me and I promised myself to change. It was then I received an email from my advisor about my conditional admission. I met with her a week before the Spring semester started, to discuss my strategy for the upcoming term. I told her everything I listed above and also added that in my research lab, I felt like I didn’t have enough responsibility. I was the only Masters student in my lab at the time, shadowing a PhD student and because he had a publication to work on, we couldn't do much after I completed the set of experiments that he needed data for. I learned a skill or two from another PhD student but it boiled down to one thing: everyone’s project was different and I had no clarity on my role. My advisor suggested I talk to my P.I and I did. We mapped out a plan and I even offered to help him review publications when I had little to do in the lab. I was excited for the Spring semester and even uploaded a picture on Instagram after my first day. It was ominous.

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Let’s rewind to the Christmas holiday. It was the end of that year and obviously, everyone was dotting their “i’s and crossing their t’s. It was no wonder that my department reached out to me then about my GRE. I responded that I had retaken the exam back in July before starting classes. It takes less than a month if not 2 weeks for ETS (the exam body) to report scores to the schools selected.  If someone had reached out to me then, not 5 months later, I would have worked out a plan to study for the GRE throughout the semester and retake it before the deadline, though I am certain I would not have done any better. And I didn’t.

After a series of back and forth via email, where I even told the department that I reported my scores earlier in the year and no one got back to me, I was given an ultimatum to retake the exam before school started in January. So I did. Before my test, I asked them everyone on the email thread if they would wait for the official scores to be reported. They responded in the negative, adding that I should send an email with the scores I received. Hmmm... this makes me wonder why school admissions make us spend $25 to send official scores to them, if they can somehow trust us to email in our actual scores anyways. I digress.

I remember the email exchanges, the lag in communication when my undergrad email was used instead of my active email which made me miss some responses for up to 2 weeks, I remember everything that went wrong during that period. Most importantly, I remember how my pleas to be given till the end of the Spring Semester - so that I could have more time to study and actually raise my score - fell on deaf ears. I had told them and they knew how difficult it was to "miraculously" raise one's GRE score by so many points at once. It was proven. Your GRE scores will almost always not fall too far from your initial score. Despite my pleas, I was “blessed” with an email a week after Spring term resumed – I had been dropped from the program.

Relentless as I was, I started running around to see who I could talk to, who I could appeal my case with. Of all the people I met with, my Dean was the most helpful. One of the program directors literally wrote me off, saying things like “all you had to do was pass this simple exam with elementary school math”. All fine and well, the GRE math section isn’t hard; it’s tricky! And let’s face it, standardized tests measure nothing. In all my 3 attempts though, my first attempt was the best [151 152 4]. It wasn't excellent, but for someone who is terrified by standardized tests and whose brand new phone cracked a block away from the test center on test day in October 2013, I know I did good. I didn’t particularly like the program at UH or the school but since I was not the type to transfer from school to school, I had no intention of leaving the program or Houston which I hated as well. All my focus that Spring was to forge ahead and do better. I had to like UH and Houston by fire, by force.  I guess God had another plan.

During my meeting with my Dean and advisor, I watched my Dean rack his brain for viable options to at least keep me in the school. My advisor on the other hand sat there with a nonchalant expression on her face, despite the fact that I had come to her with everything that hindered my grades in the previous semester. She was meant to stand in and intercede for me as my advisor and as someone who was getting to know both my abilities and my shortcomings, except I have the role of an advisor all twisted. At the end of our meeting, she walked back to her office to explore the options my Dean had suggested to her and he told me “follow her”. I knew what that meant and he was right. When I got to her office, dear children of God, these were her words to me which I will never forget: “I don’t know what Dr. XX is doing. We have never done this for any student before and these options are not going to work. Just enroll at HCC”. Oh, Judas Iscariot, Oh Pharoah, you lie! Or do you? No, you are there for a purpose. A few weeks later, I knew that my advisor was the Pharoah in my story, which just got a thicker plot. Read on…