International Student of the Year champions getting involved
Pamela Agada, from Nigeria
Rebecca Schneidereit - May 1, 2012
When Pamela Agada was name Dalhousie’s International Student of the Year at the Dalhousie Impact Awards, she received the honour a little sheepishly.
“I’m like ‘oh, my god’ and I can see myself acting the fool on the camera,” she says. “It was a really long walk to the stage.”
While the award wasn’t a complete surprise, Ms. Agada hadn’t even expected to be nominated originally. “The first person who nominated me was my friend Camille Outerbridge from Bermuda,” she says. “I was like, ‘Why would you nominate me?’… I felt really, really touched that anybody would notice the things I do, because I do them for myself.”
Ms. Agada is the vice-president of the Dalhousie African Students’ Association, a member of Dalhousie Equestrian and Dal Dance, a volunteer at the International Centre, a Black Student Advising Centre mentor, and also a receptionist and a building attendant with security services – and that’s just the shortlist.
“This isn’t even half of what I do,” Ms. Agada notes of the summarized achievements which earned her the International Student of the Year Award, although she’s not interested in bragging: “I don’t want to make it seem like, ‘Does this girl study’?”
Easy to get involved
Ms. Agada’s commitments are so diverse partly because trying new things at Dal is easy: “I like the fact that there are so many societies on campus that one can get involved in,” she says.
Her interest in equestrianism, for interest, is relatively new. “The first time I got on a horse, I screamed… you don’t scream on a horse,” she warns. “If a horse gets freaked out, you’re in trouble.” She’s come a long way since then. These days, “I want to be very confident to know how to ride a horse, how to saddle a horse, how to take care of a horse… being in charge of a beautiful animal that can easily kill me.”
In contrast to her recent interest in equestrianism, dance is Ms. Agada’s lifelong passion. “My mom would tell you that I learned how to dance when I learned how to walk.” She started with ballet, and before long, “I was in every dance group in my elementary school.” Ms. Agada appreciates the intangible rush she gets from dancing.
“When I’m dancing I’m in my own zone… I have no care in the world. I don’t care if I have a 100-page paper due the next day… I can play music in my apartment and dance until I’m exhausted.”
In the winter semester, however, everything else takes a backseat to Ms. Agada’s responsibilities to the African Students’ Association – including the major job of organizing African Night. “I became an exec in my first year,” Ms. Agada says of her involvement with the association. “I went to the meeting as a student… and came out as an executive, which was very, very shocking to me!” She plans to remain a member of the DASA for the rest of her university career, and even after graduation.
Commitment to global mental health
Ms. Agada is double-majoring in psychology and international development. Her home is in Nigeria, but she’s been living in Canada since high school, where she attended an international school in Hamilton, Ontario. Her subsequent choice to attend Dalhousie was largely influenced by its proximity to the ocean, which reminded Ms. Agada of the city she grew up in Nigeria. “With all the friends I’ve made, it’s been a good time,” she says of her university experience.
Once she graduates from Dalhousie, Ms. Agada would like to continue graduate work “anywhere in Canada – Dal, Vancouver, Nunavut, New Brunswick.” Her long-term goal is to “get back home and try and better my country… mental health in Nigeria would be an issue to me…I think it’s not just Nigeria, but a lot of African countries, they really don’t know the value of mental health.”
And while she acknowledges that helping an entire nation think about mental health in a new way is pretty ambitious, that’s just her style.
“People who know me know that when I set my mind to do something, I will try my very best to accomplish that thing.”