For an international student from Nigeria who moved six thousand miles to study at Hope College, the idea of leaving Michigan to go off campus might seem puzzling. However, once you understand the drive that propelled me across the Atlantic, you can appreciate why I wanted to experience more parts of the United States during my undergraduate education.
For my first off-campus experience, I was fortunate enough to have been recommended to the Washington D.C. Honors program run by the political science department at Hope College. During these four months in the nation’s capital, students get to learn by completing various internships. The internship experience is complemented by Hope faculty taught classes and informational sessions with Hope Alumni deeply entrenched in America’s Federal City.
Through this program my junior year, I worked in the office of Senator Gary Peters as a Legislative Intern. This role allowed me to get a more intimate understanding of the American government, especially in the area of constituent correspondence. I was fortunate to work with two Legislative Assistants during my internship; one assistant worked on economic issues, and the other thought through foreign affairs and security concerns. I got to assist both individuals with their decision-making processes by attending Senate briefings and compiling summaries & analyses. This experience allowed me to think more critically about policy issues while applying many of the concepts I had picked up during my classes at Hope.
It’s important not to miss one of the best parts of an off-campus study program, which is getting to learn in a brand-new environment. For me, Washington D.C. was full of so much promise and allowed me to lean into its international nature. Whether it was trying Pakistani food, connecting with my fellow Nigerians, discussing the economic impacts of refugee displacement, or giving tours of the Capitol building to Spanish tourists, I loved it. I enjoyed every single ride on the metro, even though I got lost a couple of times. And, I enjoyed learning how to budget as a young adult, even if there were some moments of financial anxiety.
In all, Washington D.C. provided an opportunity I could not afford to pass up. Seeing how people with my specific degree were operating in the nation’s capital has given me more clarity about my future. Hence, when a second opportunity for off-campus study presented itself, I jumped right on it.
New York City is my home for this semester, and so, while I cannot fully evaluate the program until it is over, I can say that I am glad I took the leap of faith in this direction. Like my home city, Lagos, NYC is densely populated and bursting with energy. The vibrancy that moves through the city is, thus, infectious and is allowing for a great semester. While here, I am taking writing classes with The New York Arts Program and serving as a Policy and Engagement Intern at The Africa Center. While different from my first internship, this work also allows me to apply the knowledge I picked up from my Philosophy and Political Science program at Hope. With the helpful guidance of my supervisor, I am working on establishing relationships with African consulates and embassies in New York while developing policy proposals for The Afreximbank Diaspora Institute, which is looking to understand and support Africans like myself living in the United States.
This opportunity through Hope’s off-campus study office, to live in one of the world’s most iconic cities while working on skills that are relevant to my emerging career, is one I am extremely grateful for. Unlike many other undergraduate students around the world, I am able to leave my campus and travel for two semesters. Additionally, Hope’s program is different because it allows individuals to move their financial aid packages towards off-campus semesters, which allows for more financial accessibility. This policy allowed me to make this year of travel possible.
In closing, as someone who moved continents in search of an educational opportunity, I understand the value that being away from home can provide. While such a semester abroad can be stretching, it is also a time for immense growth in multiple areas. I know this because I have already taken that adventurous leap into the unknown three times. Hence, the question becomes, when will you be joining me at Hope to study off campus?