“My aim when I started studies was not to finish with a first-class degree or get one spectacular CGPA,” wrote Thomas Gabriel Chung, a Nigerian native of Plateau State studying in Russia. “I wanted to just pass and most importantly, understand my course very well,” wrote Chung in Beyond Borders magazine, a publication of the Association of Nigerian Scholarship Students in Russia.
But Chung, 23 graduated last July with a First Class in Automation Engineering, leading dozens of international colleagues with 5.0 CGPA – a rare feat among international students at the Voronezh State University of Engineering Technology (VSUET).
Before moving to Russia for his Bachelors in 2017, Chung scored an astounding nine A1s in his West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Only few students have made it that big in the international highschool examination. Thus, he earned a federal scholarship to study his dream course in Russia.
Chung did not initially want to study in Russia, but the United States of America, he wrote. But when that dream failed, he drew inspiration from a book he published at the age of 13 titled, “Book of General Knowledge”. With this, Chung became a self-taught student as he started his career on September 1, 2018 after a year of learning the Russian language.
“I studied wide and went beyond what I was taught in class. I soon realized I found a new passion of learning new things. I was able to maximize the internet availability we had in Russia and I became a self-taught student,” he wrote.
Within a short time, Chung became a leader of teams and a star among his peers without writing a single examination till he graduated.
“I won many awards and participated in a lot of programs. I remember in my third year when I won the award of Student of the Year in the nomination of “Excellent student of the year” (отличник года). That earned me honorary mentions by my school,” he wrote.
“Nevertheless, I did not stop there. I went ahead to participate and win a lot of competitions like: The International Youth Math Challenge, Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence in the Russian Scholarship Project Association, International Quiz in Computer science and programming, and many more. After graduation, I won several full scholarships to pursue my masters. I had to choose which scholarship to accept. In as much as I strived for academic excellence.
“I also submitted myself to take up a lot of leadership positions including being the Senator of ANSSIR 2021/2022, SFC Voronezh President, SFC Russia Drama Coordinator, Youth International Conclave Delegate in the UNESCO committee. This is a huge opportunity that has built me and shaped me to become more valuable to my generation.
“The amazing thing was that I never wrote any exam in my four years in the University,” he wrote. The Russian system awards students who score a 5 in their continuous assessments with avtomat which means an automatic score. Those with a lower score in their assessment but want a higher score would usually go for examinations.
In his final year, Chung launched a start-up named GT Merch to train and empower others aiming to make it in the field of automation engineering.
He advises aspiring engineers to maintain a balance of academic and social life to excel. “Make the sky your starting point and never be satisfied with good till the best is achieved,” he wrote.