Like many international students, Margaret Nongo-Okojokwu felt a combination of uncertainty and excitement as she arrived at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for the first time.
Nongo-Okojokwu, a journalist from Nigeria, traveled to Nebraska in summer 2017 to take part in the university’s inaugural Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Despite having to leave her family for over a month, she was attracted to the networking and learning opportunities of the fellowship and believed she could bring valuable skills back to her home country.
At the end of the six-week program, the initial uncertainty she felt had melted away — and the university and surrounding community left a special impact on her that she couldn’t forget.
“I looked around at the town and the people, and it was welcoming and warm. I like the calmness here. I felt like my children can grow here. I fell in love with Lincoln, and I thought instantly, ‘I want to come back,’” Nongo-Okojokwu said.
This semester, Nongo-Okojokwu has returned to the university as a student in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s integrated media communications graduate program. She is the first of Nebraska’s Mandela Washington Fellows to come back for a master’s degree.
She’ll also have the support of her husband and three children as they move from Nigeria to Nebraska permanently this month.
“I think they will (like it here),” she said. “I’ve been a very good ambassador for Lincoln.”
Nongo-Okojokwu was motivated to return to Nebraska after taking a solutions journalism course during her 2017 fellowship. In the class, she realized that a more in-depth education could help advance her reporting and media work within the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
In her home country, Nongo-Okojokwu and her husband run an energy industry publication, Majorwaves Energy Report. She believes that the curriculum at Nebraska, involving public relations, digital media, branding and more, will help bolster the impact of her work.
“I’ve been in professional journalism for 12 years, so when I got the opportunity to apply, I was excited to find out about the IMC track,” Nongo-Okojokwu said.
Along with being a student this fall, Nongo-Okojokwu is also helping teach journalism course Social Justice and Human Rights in the Media to undergraduates in the college. She plans to use her own experiences in Nigeria, where free information and press can be limited, to give her students an expanded look at the subject.
“For me, personally, it’s a good thing to have a global view of the field where you’re working. Coming from the media, it’s good to have a perspective from the other side,” Nongo-Okojokwu said.
Most of all, Nongo-Okojokwu is excited to be a part of Nebraska’s thriving international student community, which she believes offers an essential perspective to all of campus.
“Having students come from different parts of the world, bringing their own experiences and culture, creates a balance that says ‘This is not all about us. The world is not about this particular place, or these kind of people,’” she said.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young Africa Leaders is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was a sub-grantee of IREX and implemented a U.S.-based Leadership Institute as part of the Fellowship. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org.
Learn more about the university’s global outreach and activities here.