I entered college as part of the Division of General Studies (DGS), because I wanted to explore my interests before settling on a major. I signed up for a Global Studies course my first semester, and that’s how I decided what I wanted to do. As I kept taking more Global Studies courses, I grew more interest in it and eventually chose my thematic area of Global Health.

I based these decisions off my interests because I was considering going into the medical field, maybe as a physician, but wasn’t very sure. I was always interested in global health due to my background, with both my parents being from Sub-Saharan Africa. I also declared a minor in History, because I’ve always had an interest in it, and I enjoyed all the History courses I took while at Illinois.

Some of my most meaningful experiences were the study abroad programs I took part in. I first went to Ghana in the summer of my freshman year, where I took a culture and reproductive health course, which made me really interested in reproductive health and rights, as well as women’s health. My second trip was a program in Sierra Leone related to agriculture, and while it seemed unrelated to my major at first, I found lots of relevance to my own studies as the trip went on.

After I graduated, I worked as a Case Investigator for the State of Michigan working on coordinating COVID-19 case-tracking, and then began a Master’s in Public Health program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My focus is in Maternal, Child, and Family Health. My decision to enter graduate school was motivated by my experiences at Illinois – especially in the classroom and during my study abroad trips. I ultimately decided to complete this MPH program before settling on a career in medicine, to help me decide whether I want to continue doing research or working on the clinical side.

I have found lots of opportunities for networking in my graduate program. I’ve found professors that have very similar interests as me, and I’ve enjoyed being in a classroom with like-minded individuals who are interested in continuing research within maternal and child health.

I would tell current students to take advantage of study abroad. Everyone in the Study Abroad Office is great, and they’ll work with you. And don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. You might find a study abroad program, for example, that seems unrelated to your major, but you could find out that it was worth the risk. I would also advise students not to feel pressured to choose a major when they first get to college. Trying out classes in different areas can help you see where your interests lie. Finally, it’s also important to continue to develop relationships with your professors. Establish those networks while you’re there so that when you graduate you can always reach back out to them if you need a recommendation letter, or even just to give an update.