By: Kristin Pawlowski, Sr. Assistant Director, Honors / UNC UCS

Today, we bring you Esosa Asemota, interviewed by Kristin Pawlowski, Sr. Assistant Director, Honors/UNC UCS. 

Esosa Asemota is a sophomore from Fayetteville, NC, majoring in Nutrition. Her current career interest lie in the intersection of: medicine, sustainable development, and food systems.  Ms. Asemota and I first crossed paths during her preparation for application to the Robertson program.  The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program offers UNC students access to the resources of both Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Robertson Scholars serve as ambassadors of cross-campus collaboration and leadership as well as partake in both domestic and international summer experiences wherein scholars explore and act on individual passions and interests as to refine awareness of the ways in which they aspire to contribute to society. 

Pawlowski:  How did you learn about the Robertson program?

Asemota:  I first gained knowledge about the Robertson program through a mass email sent to all students in my high school. While researching more about the program, I learned about the excellent opportunity for first year students at UNC and Duke to apply.

Pawlowski:  What has been the most meaningful part of the Robertson experience?

Asemota:  This past summer, I had the privilege of living and serving with eight other scholars in the Mississippi Delta. While here, I worked as an enrichment camp counselor for elementary students in Mound Bayou, a town that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. I always imagined that Mississippi would remain the state I passed through, but never stopped by – I never once dreamt that I would stay there, as I previously saw no reason to do so.  However, after residing there for two months, I have come to understand that the MS Delta is truly one of America’s most precious jewels. This place is filled with so much history and exhibits an authentic reality that, although imperfect, is still genuinely beautiful. Here, you are constantly reminded of how the present is connected to the past and how it fits in the context of a grander narrative. Inequality is easy to see in MS, but so is the invaluable sense of identity and community present here as well.

Even in the midst of various hardships, I found students with bright spirits and sharp brains. While I played the role of teacher, learning from them has further convicted me to fight against structural injustice and play an active role in the empowerment of the marginalized.

Another important aspect of my experience are the relationships I have been able to form with my fellow scholars, especially those I lived with this past summer. In my dialogue with them, I have been positively challenged in my worldview and in the continual process of (re) defining it. The Robertson Program has given me the blessing of being surrounded by incredibly passionate people who are inspiringly dedicated in their work, and that passion has propelled me to further delve into my own as well.

Pawlowski:  In what way(s) did this experience help you prepare for your next steps after Carolina?

Asemota:  This experience has really illuminated the idea behind the Biblical scripture Ecclesiastes 9:10 – in whatever task we have, we should strive to do it well. We should bring all our passion. If there is not a greater reason attached to what you are doing – if it is not worth doing it with “all your might” – should you really be doing it?

Pawlowski:  What skills or competencies did you develop through your experience that you believe will be valuable as you transition into the professional realm?

Asemota:  While I could name a plethora, a few skills that readily come to mind are self-awareness and proactivity.

Pawlowski:  Do you have any advice for other Carolina students who might be interested in applying for the Robertson program?

Asemota:  Be intentional during your first year concerning your academic and extra-curricular life – do not just do things simply for the sake of doing them, instead, have a

proper reason behind why you engage in these activities. This will be very helpful when writing your essays – there should be some sort of thread that connects all the pieces of your story. I recommend having people you know closely and people you don’t know as well to read your essays, so that they can help you discern what content is important and what is not, and help you decide which points you need to emphasize more or less.  Make every sentence count – do your best to eliminate fluff. Additionally, you should also utilize Career Services to help in writing your essays and preparing for your interviews – they are an invaluable resource!

Pawlowski:     How did Career Services support your preparation for this experience?

Asemota:  Career Services supported me immensely. The discussions I had with these amazing individuals were so productive and encouraging, and they even helped me in understanding and articulating my own “whys” at a greater level. The practice interviews were extremely beneficial as well, and I enjoyed debriefing with my support team afterwards to discuss what went well and what could be improved. With Ms. Pawlowski, Mr. Collins, and Ms. Jacobs, I truly felt that I had a team, and I am so thankful for all the precious guidance they gave me throughout the process.

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