At seventeen years old in Abuja, Nigeria, Ibukun Akinboyo sat down to browse the internet in search of a place to call home for the next four years of her education. She stumbled across Geneva College.
Ibukun finished her secondary education at a boarding school in Abuja and applied to everything from large state universities to small Christian colleges to Canadian schools, but the rapid response from Geneva′s admissions office caught her attention, and, sight unseen, she chose it and prepared to pick up and move her life across the Atlantic.
She knew her fluency in English and experience in a British-based education system would help to lessen the culture shock she was bound to encounter, but one thing that nothing could have prepared her for, that one thing we all know and love, was Western Pennsylvania weather.
"I didn't know it could get this cold!" she exclaims. "It was the middle of August and everyone else was in t-shirts; I was shaking I was so cold."
After a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a fleece jacket to help her body adjust to its new environment, her mind had to do the same a few days later when classes started. It was her first exposure to what she calls "the American style of teaching."
"Teachers here are more casual, more helpful, more approachable," she says. Instead of professors simply lecturing and students furiously scribbling notes, "There′s more application and understanding."
In Nigeria, Ibukun′s father is an engineer, and she entered Geneva with the intention of following in his footsteps. But an opportunity arose for her to join a mission team going to Jamaica over spring break one year, and everything changed.
"In Jamaica I decided I had to help people," she remembers. "I knew I had to be a doctor. This is where I felt called."
So Ibukun switched her major to biology, with a concentration in pre-medicine. Because she graduated from high school at only 16 (and her dad pronounced her "too scrawny to leave the country"), she waited a year to apply for colleges. During that year, Ibukun worked as an aid helping an elementary school teacher in Nigeria, where she developed a love for working with kids. Her passions fused into a dream of being a pediatrician.
But if she wanted to go to medical school, it was going to take some careful planning and rearranging of her schedule to fit in all the necessary requirements in time to take the MCATs. Fortunately for her, Geneva assigns every one of its students to a faculty adviser whose job is to do just that. Her adviser, Dr. Essig, stayed with her every step of the way, walking her through the classes she needed, preparing her for the MCATs, and helping her research and apply to medical schools.
"In retrospect, I don't think I could have done this anywhere else," says Ibukun. "Some of my friends went to big schools where they've gotten lost in the shuffle, but it′s like God just dropped Dr. Essig into my life."
This kind of personal attention was more critical for Ibukun than for most pre-med graduates. As an international student, state schools will not accept her on the chance that she will receive her education in the U.S. and then immediately put that education to use in another country. This forced her to limit her search to small private medical schools, where even then she had less than a 1% chance of getting in.
But get in she did. Thanks to her hard work, Ibukun is currently attending Jefferson Medical School.
For international students thinking about pursuing higher education in the States, especially at Geneva, Ibukun advises, "Consider the fact that as a small school, Geneva has that welcoming family feel. Also, you might be able to adjust more easily at a big school where there are more people like you, but that won't broaden your mind as much."
Ibukun broadened her mind and took advantage of some of the many clubs and organizations Geneva had to offer. She was the president of the International Student Organization and was involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Acting On Aids, and various mission trips.
"It′s those little things that changed my life," she says. "And I owe that to Geneva."
- by Brooke Prokopchak ('08)
Ibukunoluwa Akinboyo graduated in May, 2008 with her bachelor′s degree in biology with a concentration in pre-medicine. She is in her third year of medical school at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. After medical school, she plans to stay in the U.S. for a few years before going on to do medical missions, traveling to different nations and caring for children who have no access to the medical care they desperately need.