Oghenerukeme Asagba is a graduate student from Nigeria and one of the founders of the education and healthcare non-profit CAIN, Catering to Africans In Need. While she has been in the US, Oghenerukeme says she has gained a broader and more global perspective, and she encourages our readers to get out of their “cultural bubbles” and try something new. Read more about CAIN and Ms. Asagba’s experiences here:
Tell us about CAIN and what inspired you to create it.
CAIN is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization aimed at providing better access to quality education and healthcare to the less privileged in impoverished African communities. I founded CAIN in 2013 with a group of talented young Africans passionate about contributing to the development of Africa. Since conception, we have significantly impacted the lives of over 500 people. Through grants, generous donations and significant partnerships, we have established a rural clinic, provided scholarships to poor students, held summer tutorial programs and extracurricular activities like sustainable development training. Our current project is aimed at establishing an educational resource center to serve less privileged students in an under-resourced community in Nigeria. The property for the center has been purchased and is currently being renovated. We hope to raise enough funds to complete renovation and furnishing so the center can officially open this year.
The inspiration for CAIN was born during my time in high school. At that time, I was helping my mum run her gift store, and one of my duties was to examine and interview prospective employees. Since it was a minimum wage job, the pool of applicants were high school graduates from impoverished communities in Nigeria. As I evaluated applicants, I realized the injustice meted to them by the public education system. Many were unable to read, write and think coherently despite their high school diploma. It was disheartening to realize the monumental education gap. This experience coupled with my passion for medicine inspired me to start CAIN.
What made you want to study at a US university and CWRU in particular?
Universities in the US provide a vast array of courses to choose from. In addition, the flexibility gives students the opportunity to explore interests and combine them. Notwithstanding, US universities attract people from all over the world so the diversity helps to build cultural competence. I picked CWRU in particular because in addition to all the aforementioned attributes, it was strategically situated close to many reputable health institutions for me to gain clinical experience and get involved in clinical research.
What do you miss most about your home country?
I miss the food! I’m probably biased, but I believe Nigeria has the most delicious food in the world. Although a huge part of my diet in the US is Nigerian based, it still doesn’t taste like the meals made in Nigeria because some ingredients are hard to find in Cleveland, and sometimes it’s hard to use certain local methods of cooking in the US.
How has your global perspective changed now that you have studied in the US?
We are often oblivious of the magnitude of impact our culture has made in our personal lives. Our values, decisions, careers, etc. are all influenced by culture. And as you would be expect, there are both positive and negative influences. Thus having a global perspective is imperative because it gives you a broader lens to view the world and make better decisions. Having studied in the US, I have been exposed to a diverse pool of people, and learning about their cultures and viewpoints has helped me evaluate mine. I have discovered many amazing things about my culture that I will wholeheartedly preserve, but I have also questioned the negative aspects, and I’m doing my part to fight against them and hopefully change the narrative. Therefore I would say studying in the US has given me a broader global perspective.
Name one thing about studying in the US that you had heard about before arriving and were surprised it was actually true.
I heard studying in the US could be a little more tasking than studying in Nigeria. I found out this was true because here you have many more things that contribute to your grade. So you are always occupied with either an assignment, quiz, project, presentation, paper etc.
Name one thing you tried for the first time while studying at CWRU. Did you like it?
Going on an actual vacation with a couple of friends. In the past, I only travelled with friends for conferences. The trip was really refreshing, and I loved every bit of it.
What advice would you give to other international students arriving to study at CWRU?
Don’t just stay within your cultural bubble. Broaden your horizon of knowledge and build a diverse network by making an effort to establish relationships with people from other cultures. There is so much beauty in diversity! It helps you see the world with a clearer view.
What do you love about Cleveland?
I love that it’s a metropolitan area that’s home to many universities and reputable health institutions.
What is your favorite place to visit in the Cleveland area?
Downtown Cleveland. I actually just had a photoshoot downtown.
What would you like to do after finishing your studies at CWRU?
I would like to continue pursuing a career in Medicine and keep implementing projects to help the less privileged gain better access to quality education and healthcare.