Chidiogo Orakwue

Orakwue

In January, I began my second semester at the University of Minnesota, Rochester — a school that, just a few years ago, I never imagined I would be attending.

You see, I was born in Nigeria. My family immigrated to the United States eight years ago in pursuit of better educational opportunities. It seems like fate, then, that we would relocate to Rochester after my mum landed a job at Mayo Clinic: We had no idea there was a college sitting atop the mall downtown.

As my sister, Amarachi, was looking for college opportunities, she happened to look up one day and see the big maroon and gold M displayed on the ceiling inside the mall. We looked at the school and realized it was all about health sciences, ideal for a pre-med student like Amarachi.

I wanted to go on the pre-med route as well, but I was determined to leave Rochester. When it came time to start applying for college, I set my sights on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, fantasizing about being away from home and starting a whole new life. My parents had their own agenda and pushed me to check out UMR for myself.

I knew a lot about the school from Amarachi, who told me just about everything about it: small class sizes, professors invested in students’ learning, its proximity to Mayo Clinic and its health sciences degrees. I knew I would be surrounded by like-minded people and would succeed in an environment that is tailored to my passions.

It seems like the perfect fit, and it was.

After my first semester, I can proudly say I made the right decision. I have met some really great people with whom I wholly connect. My professors are phenomenal. Due to UMR’s small class sizes, I have been able to really connect with my professors and fellow students. My world has opened up to various experiences and endless opportunities: now, even as a first-year student, I’m a part of a competitive research team that is tackling Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome as part of a program at Mayo Clinic. I never thought I’d be fortunate enough to have a college experience like this.

In January, I joined University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler at the state Capitol, urging lawmakers to support the school’s legislative request this session. The university is asking for a small increase in state funding, with the goal of investing in its core mission and keeping tuition affordable for students at UMR. Lawmakers’ support for the university means so much to students like me: it allows us to focus on our education while expanding the wonderful opportunities the university provides.

My dream is to become an obstetrician and build a women’s health clinic back home in Nigeria. It pains me that in today’s modern times, there are women from countries like Nigeria that have high mortality rates due to complications in childbirth. I know that by studying at UMR, I am well on my way to addressing the issues facing women around the world.

Chidiogo Orakwue is a first-year pre-med student at the University of Minnesota Rochester. She is a Rochester resident.

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