‘You have to work your butt off here’: Student from Nigeria comes to Wichita State


Tanat Maichan

Ijeoma Obi is an international exchange student from Nigeria majoring in Biomedical Engineering. She transfered to Wichita State to experience the American education system.

Sophomore Ijeoma Obi moved from her homeland of Nigeria to the United States at the age of 17 to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.

Obi said she was motivated by a desire for a better education.

“Schooling is better here than in Nigeria, with everything from better programs to better teachers,” Obi said. “I chose WSU because the engineering program is really good here and I have friends who have gone here and spoken well about the school.”

Wichita State has also provided Obi with the opportunity to participate in student groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers.

“WSU is all about diversity,” Obi said. “That’s one thing about being here that I really like. I already knew some people here and I’ve met other people who are also from Nigeria, so I’m not alone. Plus, I think it’s great that people get to learn about everyone’s culture.”

Obi, one of seven children in her family, is the youngest of three to come to the United States pursuing an education. Two of her older sisters also attend Wichita State, so she isn’t entirely alone.

Obi said she had a smooth transition from Nigeria to the U.S.

“It wasn’t really that hard, transitioning here,” Obi said. “I had come here to visit before with my family, but it was still a little bit difficult in school because I didn’t always understand everything people were saying.”

Obi said she keeps in touch with her family in Nigeria, talking on the phone and traveling home for holidays every year.

“Before I came here, I was in boarding school,” Obi said. “I was used to being away from my family except for times like Christmas, so this was nothing new. I do miss my family, but I have family here too.”

American and Nigerian cultures have a multitude of differences, but Obi said the way people greet each other stands out as the most strikingly different.

“In Nigeria, if I’m going to greet you, I won’t have to look you straight in the face,” Obi said. “Here, if I greet you and don’t look you in the eye, it’s considered disrespectful. In some Nigerian cultures, you also bow when you meet someone, but here it’s just a ‘hi’ or ‘hello.’”

Looking to the future, Obi said she isn’t sure where she’ll end up or what she’ll be doing.

“That’s something I’ve been thinking very hard about,” Obi said. “I’d like to stay here and work for a while, then go back home. I’m just hoping I know more about what I want before I graduate.”

Through the ups and downs of her experience, Obi said she has gained knowledge she wishes to share with others who might consider coming to America for school.

“There’s this mindset where people think that coming to America is the best thing they’ve ever done,” Obi said. “But there are problems in this country too. You have to work your butt off here. I would advise anyone coming here to be focused — to know their purpose in being here and to know the goals they want to achieve.”