Shayo Tinuoye: The Global Citizen

Shayo Tinuoye Oluwashayo Tinuoye – or Shayo as most people call her – is a young Nigerian lady who has traveled to thirty four countries in her quest for knowledge and an opportunity to impact lives. And she isn’t done yet. She intends to visit as many countries as possible before she is too old to travel. But where did it all start from? To understand her will, we may have to go way back. Shayo was born into a blended family, the daughter of a Reverend who lives in Kaduna and a retired teacher who lives in Ibadan.  She is the first child of her father and the last of her mother. She has eight siblings in total, four from her dad and four from her mum. It’s a large family with Shayo as the middle child. I asked how she was able to cope with the drama that was likely to come with such family dynamics. “Growing up, it was more challenging having to deal with separated parents and being caught up in the heat sometimes. But it is way better now.” She had to balance her relationship with her family by spending time in Kaduna when school was in session and in Ibadan during the holidays. Despite the family issues she was facing, she always maintained her happy-go-lucky personality. In high school, she was ribbed a lot for being a tall girl – she was 5’7 at the time of graduation – and she found a way to tease back, making her a favorite among many of her classmates. Nothing, it seemed, could dampen the bubble of happiness that was Shayo. Shayo knew she always wanted to travel but apart from shuttling between Ibadan and Kaduna, she didn’t really think much about it. It wasn’t until she got to the university that an opportunity similar to the start of a cheesy love story presented itself. “So I was sitting on the walkway after a boring lecture one glorious day back in 100 level and a couple of cute boys walked up to me and my friends. And they were like, ‘What’s your passion?’.We couldn’t answer in a way that was convincing. “So they told us about this amazing organization that helps people explore their leadership potential blah blah blah… But what I took out of all the mumbo jumbo they said was the fact that I could travel to work on a social issue. And I was very passionate about HIV/AIDS. So I was like ‘Why not? After all, na plant we dey study!’.” At a Temple in Guangzhou, China You see, Shayo had written JAMB three times because she wanted to study medicine. When university admission was not forthcoming and she absolutely needed to leave home, she agreed to study Plant Biology at the University of Ilorin. This was a course she didn’t have any interest in, so her stay in the university was just to pass time. Cue cute boys to change the narrative. The organisation they were raving about? AIESEC. When Shayo found AIESEC, her university days finally became interesting. She was glad to have found something that was practical and she gave it a greater portion of her energy. She was not really clear on the objectives of the organisation until, at the 200 level break, she went to Ghana. “I went to Kumasi, Ghana, for an internship where I worked on a project called ASK (Answers and Solutions around HIV/AIDS). It was mainly creating awareness in high schools. So I worked on this project alongside other interns from about 10 counties. We partnered with a couple of organisations focusing on similar issues in Kumasi. After I got back, I had more clarity on what AIESEC was about. So I became a super active member.” Getting clarity came with a price. The internship was self-funded and unpaid, as all the participants were volunteers. I became very curious about how a 21-year old girl managed to travel abroad to work with little funds. How did her parents react? “Haha! My parents were in full support, although my dad became skeptical at some point. And he was like, ‘What are you going there to do… blah blah blah…’ But I managed to go, being a stubborn head. Plus, mum was in full support. She paid for my transportation. So I went via ABC – longest trip of my life! And she also gave me pocket money. My dad also gave me some cash, plus I saved a little. So I managed.” From that moment, the travel bug bit Shayo and she couldn’t be cured. Even though most of her trips have been for work, she has used every opportunity to enjoy the people and cultures of each country she has been to. So far, that number has been thirty-four. You begin to wonder how many times she travels a year. “It’s hard to take an average – the reason being that my trips were totally dependent on my role. For example, when I was Director for Talent Management in Ghana, I traveled only twice. When I became Country Director, I traveled more and then when I became Director for Africa, I had to visit even more countries. So those visits were almost always work related.” Shayo’s plate is clearly full, when it comes to travelling for work. I wondered if she had any time at all for personal vacations and leisurely trips.  “Yes I do. Every year. Two years ago I spent my entire vacation exploring Italy. Last year, Malta Island and Cambodia. Okay… let me answer your question. On an average, I travel thrice a year, at least.” Isn’t she living the life?! Shayo’s job is certainly interesting because of the opportunities it provides, but don’t be fooled – it’s not an endless vacation. She worked incredibly hard to build herself from a young volunteer into the organisation’s Director for Africa. She talked me through her journey, and emphasised the importance of seizing opportunities

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