Beginning graduate school during the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly challenging for all students, but likely even more challenging for international students. Charity Odetola is one of the first-year graduate students who started her study in the Department of Educational Research Methodology (ERM) in Fall 2020.
Originally from Nigeria, Charity grew up in Senegal, then came to the U.S. to attend college along with her brother and sister. After their undergraduate studies, both Charity and her sister, Love, chose to continue their graduate studies at UNC Greensboro. Love is currently working on her doctoral degree in Public Health Education. Although Charity has been studying in the U.S. for some time and has the support from her siblings, being a first-year graduate student away from home during the pandemic is not easy.
It was the International Ambassadors (iAmbassador) program at UNC Greensboro that Charity says made all the difference and opened many doors. With fond memories of similar partner programs from her undergraduate studies, Charity jumped at the opportunity to serve as an iAmbassador. “I had such a great experience with the program when I was an undergraduate,” Charity remembers. “Now that I have been here for a decade, I would like to share my experiences and connect with others.”
Being an iAmbassador, Charity learned about the Global Leadership Program and started to work on the Bronze Leadership Challenge program. This semester (Spring 2021), she participates in international coffee hours, works with an international conversation partner, and recently celebrated the Lunar New Year with other students through a virtual platform.
“You get to meet with other people; you get to learn more about cultures. You also learn more about resources at the school.” Charity enthusiastically shared many benefits she noted through the participation. Above all, she feels connected with the campus community is excited to share her home culture and her experiences in the U.S. with others through these interactions.
Even though all activities are currently via Zoom, Charity has enjoyed her experiences. With her conversation partner, for example, they have already had a Netflix watch party via Zoom and a virtual meal sharing (pictured above).
For her peers who may be looking for ideas to stay engaged this semester, Charity suggests that they check out the international coffee hour. “It’s for everybody,” she says. “It’s a good opportunity to get to know one another and learn more about campus resources.” The International (Virtual) Coffee Hour is 3-4 p.m. on Fridays.