At just 18, Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu is already living her dreams. From Lagos Nigeria to the Gambia, and then the United States, the story of her life has been awe-inspiring.
Nkechi recently talked to PEP NAIJA in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW. She let us into her world; her biggest secrets, plans for the future. One more thing, she actually revealed why she’s in love with the Nigerian musician and rapper Falz The Bahd Guy. Happy reading.
You are half Igbo and half Yoruba. For you, what does it mean to be a Nigerian living in the US?
As a Nigerian in the US, it’s much easier to find fellow Nigerians than you would expect. Nigerians have reputations in two extremes in the US: the “Nigerian prince” scammers, and the brilliant Trailblazers. We are often known for one of the two and so there is pressure on international students coming in to show the famous brilliance of Nigerians– especially from Nigerian professors in the US. So I think being a Nigerian in the US comes with certain expectations and there is a certain mantle to carry and because of that we tend to stand together because of our shared experiences.
Most Nigerians I meet usually don’t react in any kind of way to my mixed ethnicity. I’m actually Delta Igbo, a Kwale girl. I think the fact that we’re abroad makes us stick together; we’re Nigerians so tribes play no factor.
In fact, country of origin plays less of a factor so Ghanaians, Cameroonians, Ethiopians, Kenyans, etc. are all banded together as kindred spirits in a foreign land. In retrospect, usually the tribe thing didn’t come up until people were speaking Yoruba and I was able to respond back in Yoruba.
Please tell us briefly about your educational background.
Okay quick intro. My name is Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu. I spent most of my life in Lagos Nigeria. I finished primary school (Carol Nursery and Primary School in Agidingbi, Ikeja) at 9 years old. My whole family moved to The Gambia where I started and completed secondary school at West African International School (WAIS). My school was based on the British system of O-levels and A-levels and so I graduated after 5 years (completion of O-level studies).
You recently graduated from Howard University at age 18. Really that’s no mean feat. How did you achieve this?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering (with honors). I chose chemical engineering because I felt it was the broadest field of engineering I could follow. I wanted to be an engineer because engineers are practical problem solvers but I didn’t want to limit my choices when I got out of school and so chemical engineering was the way to go for me.
I would say the reason I was able to make it this far is because of the fabulous support system I have. I have a close knit group of friends with an unwavering support and care over the last couple of years. Despite being far away from home, I felt like I had found a new home in them so I would say I owe my sanity to them and of course my uncommonly close relationship with my parents.
For the typical college students, college can be overwhelming and is usually the second stage in a person’s life after puberty that they go through another journey of discovering who they are.
In my case, I had just begun puberty so I was handling the journey of a teenager finding her way to womanhood and the journey of a college student finding her way to true adulthood. It was quite overwhelming and annoying at times. So yes, I had moments when I was mad at everyone because I felt no one understood but I was never truly alone and I could always call on my parents or vent to anyone of my friends and they never treated my fear and/or thoughts as irrelevant or insignificant and for that I am truly grateful.
And then, what’s next on your agenda list having achieved this great feat?
I have a book coming out this summer, by the grace of God, where I narrate the actual story of my journey through college. I highlight the importance of mentorship and also give some advice from my perspective on how to maneuver college. Also, there’s a general gist about my life outside of academics and all. It’s very lighthearted and is like a look into my diary.
After the book launch (which will be in Nigeria), I will begin my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at University of California, Davis. In the long run, I plan to be a medical researcher and hopefully impact people all over the world and most especially back home in Nigeria.
Those are my specific plans. In general, I hope to help a lot of Nigerian youths grasp on to opportunity as they come and hopefully dispel the crippling notion that you can only succeed if you have money.
I had a lot of people who insisted that that was the only reason for my success when in fact, my parents are not wealthy. My parents and I had a vision, and we looked for opportunities to make that vision a reality. I hope to inspire and encourage that attitude in Nigerian youths. I also hope to promote the notion of mentoring because I have to say that was a huge factor in my success.
The Nigerian educational system needs serious attention. In your opinion what exactly do you think is the problem? And how can it be solved?
I would say the US is a more practical-based system whereas Nigeria is theoretically based. In the US, more efforts are made to relate classroom activities to the real world which I think is lacking in Nigeria most times.
There’s also more effort to ensure students remember material in creative manners. For example, I took a class where an extra credit activities was to create a song out of what you had learnt in the class that semester. If you wake me up from sleep today, I can spit out the lyrics of the song and therefore teach you that particular topic quite easily.
So who is your favorite Nigerian artist and why?
OMG! IT’S FALZ THE BAHD GUY!!! I love everything about Falz- His face, his style, his rapping, all his accents, his comedic prowess, the fact the he’s a lawyer who still did music- absolutely everything.
I think he’s extremely intelligent and wonderfully creative. Every time a Falz song comes out, I read the lyrics and then I listen to the song so I can rap along with him. His Snapchat makes me happy. Oh wow, I sound like such a fan girl. But I really do love Falz.
He was supposed to have a concert in DC during his USA tour and the Lord knows how I tried to figure out the ticket prices. I called the number on the flyer and it didn’t work. Then I tried to DM Falz on Snapchat. Eventually the concert got moved to MD and I was so SAD!
Falz is one Nigerian I would pay to see more than once. I’ve never been to a concert before, never really had interest. But I want to go to a Falz concert, even more than I want to go to a Beyoncé concert. ***Okay that’s enough gushing, Nkechi***
I think the reason I like Falz is his versatility and his story. He didn’t give up his education to follow his passion but he did both and still ended up successful and I can’t help but believe that his education plays some sort of role in his life today. I also love music, and I sing. At some point, I wanted to take a gap year to pursue music but somebody like Falz makes me feel like I can have it all. That’s why I love him.
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