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Nigerian women among UMES' 2014 graduates

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014

     PRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (May 20, 2014) - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is a multi-cultural institution that during the just-completed academic year drew students from three dozen nations.

    Among them is Nigeria, which in 2010 sent a contingent of young people from its Delta State to study at Maryland's historically black land-grant institution.

    Jennifer Ossai & Rosemary Adurumokumo, UMES Class of 2014Two members of that contingent - Rosemary Adurumokumo of Kokodiagbene and Jennifer Ossai of Kwale - received their undergraduate degrees during UMES' recent spring 2014 commencement.

    "It was a long journey," Ossai said. "Getting a college degree in this country is a stepping stone for other things that I want to accomplish in my life."

    Adurumokumo said "it has been a great opportunity to come here for a degree. My challenges were a good experience."

    The women grew up in a progressive region of the western African nation where both genders are encouraged to get an education. Ossai's father is a college graduate and two siblings are attending college while Adurumokumo's father and three of her siblings hold college degrees.

    Far to the north of their respective home towns is a different story, where conservative Muslims believe only men should attend school. Islamist terrorists triggered international outrage in mid-April when they boldly kidnapped over 200 pre-adolescent girls from a school in Chibok in Borno State.

    The two UMES graduates have tried to keep abreast of news back home by monitoring Internet reports and in exchanges with family and friends on social media sites.

    "I feel so sad when I think about it," Adurumokumo said, "… like it happened to me."

    Ossai thinks about the girls' parents. "I don't know how they survive - how they cope."

    Ossai and Adurumokumo say they are grateful to be from the southern region of Nigeria where Christianity and its tenets guide life and culture.

    Adjusting to a new life and culture in America four years ago proved challenging, but rewarding nonetheless, the women agree.

    "It was my first time away from my family," said Ossai, who earned a degree in biology, "but I found that I could be responsible for making decisions."

    Ossai and Adurumokumo arrived in Princess Anne the first week in February 2010 - in the midst of one of the snowiest winters in recent memory. Neither had seen snow before.

    "It was so cold," Ossai said, adding "I was told, but my preparation was not what I expected."

    Adurumokumo had some sense of the UMES campus. Her family held a dinner party for former UMES President Thelma Thompson and Dr. Emmanuel Acquah, who traveled to Africa to promote the university's interest in attracting international students.

    En route to campus, someone handed Adurumokumo an aerial map, which gave her the impression the campus was far larger than it is.

    Adurumokumo, who majored in accounting, found the campus community welcoming but some people she encountered seemed unsure of what to make of international students.

    "It's a big challenge for international students to speak out," Adurumokumo said. "It's a great thing to learn different cultures and belie