Louis Gomez knows how to grind. While most 16-year-old boys are learning how to drive and playing video games, Gomez was preparing to move 6,518 miles away from his hometown to start his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
This isn’t atypical of young men in Lagos, Nigeria, where Gomez grew up. Sixteen is the standard age students are expected to start college.
When searching for schools, Gomez’s father took the reigns.
“He told me that he didn’t want me to go to a place where he knew I would be overtly distracted, so he said, ‘Let’s put you in Kansas,’” Gomez said.
“It was a very fast process: get done with high school, graduate, pack up everything, get a student visa, move to a different country four weeks later.”
Upon arrival, Gomez was quick to dive into the rich social scene at Wichita State. On top of all his classes, by his senior year, Gomez was president of Eta Kappa Nu International Electrical Engineering Honor Society, vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers, a Resident Assistant in Shocker Hall, and an undergraduate researcher in the BME Neuro-robotics Lab.
“A lot of people have a work life balance — that doesn’t really apply to me most of the time,” Gomez said.
He said he felt the pressure of making sure his parent’s investment in his education didn’t go to waste. One dollar USD is worth roughly 359.38 Nigerian Nairas.
“I can’t be playing around,” Gomez said, “Not everyone has the opportunity to study in America.”
Gomez’s classmates and supervisors didn’t discount him for his age. If anything, it impressed them. Throughout his time in the United States, Gomez has faced more adversity for being a black student than a uniquely young student, he said.
“When I got here, my father told me not to wear hoodies at night,” Gomez said, “At first, I didn’t get it, but when I immersed myself in the political culture, I fully understood where this sentiment was coming from.”
Gomez recalled an instant when he was harassed by a homeless man for cash — “‘Go back to your f-ing country you f-ing n*****’ he said to me.”
Despite the hardships Gomez has faced since leaving Nigeria, he doesn’t let anyone get in the way of his goals.
“I have a vision of what I want my future self to be, and I know that I need to work now to be able to get what I want in the future,” he said.
Laughter is Gomez’s coping mechanism of choice. It’s a release of pressure and stress, he said.
Gomez is livelier than his heavy resume may suggest. With an adoration for K-Pop, Ariana Grande, and binge-watching YouTube, Gomez still finds time for himself.
“I like to think I am naturally a very funny person,” Gomez said,“but in the real world, I am an extremely obnoxious person.
“I don’t think I can slow down,” he said.
As if graduating with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering at 20 wasn’t enough, Gomez already has his sights set on his next major undertaking.
“I definitely sacrificed a lot, but I’m enjoying the fruits of my sacrifice now,” he said.
One of the fruits of his sacrifice is a ticket straight to the Big Apple, where Gomez plans on continuing his education.
“I’m actually moving to Manhattan,” he said.
Upon acceptance to the Stevens Institute of Technology with a full-ride doctoral fellowship, Gomez is set to graduate with a doctorate in computer science by the time he’s 26.
“I’m going double-time.”