Ijebusonma Agundu has very big plans.
“I want to get into Harvard Medical School, become a successful OBGYN, humanitarian, New York Times bestseller and well-known advocate against domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Agundu 19, who is expected to graduate from Middlesex Community College this spring with an Associate degree in Biology.
Her dreams began in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, where she watched her mother struggle with fertility issues for more than a decade, finally giving birth to a baby girl when Agundu was 10.
“My love for researching the female reproductive system came about as I watched my mother’s journey,” she said. “I love studying about life and the human body, and I have always had a love of helping others.”
Agundu came to MCC at the suggestion of her two godsisters, Imade and Ella, who came from Nigeria to study at Middlesex before transferring to UMass Lowell, calling it, “one of the best decisions ever.”
“The faculty and staff here never stopped believing in me, and that is something that is hard to find,” she said. “Being a bilingual student in a foreign country was scary, but this amazing staff made me feel at home. I have met the kindest humans here. MCC has done a pretty swell job in helping me become a better version of myself.”
She said when she arrived, she was a shy, homesick 17-year-old.
“I didn’t let that stop me from being an ambassador for my family in America,” Agundu said. “I just want to be that Nigerian girl who makes a difference — a shy girl pushing her way to the top.”
She has overcome her initial trepidation to become vice president of the Student Union Government Association and is an active member of the Women’s Leadership Network, International and Helping Hands clubs. She is also the former vice president of the African Cultural Club.
Agundu works in the Academic Centers for Enrichment as a writing/ELL peer tutor, a supplemental instruction leader for Pre-Calculous and Engineering, a Blackboard ambassador for new students, an orientation leader in the Student Engagement Office and an international student mentor.
Agundu’s journey has not always been easy. Because her first language is Igbo, the native language of Nigeria, she did find communication challenging at times when she first arrived in the United States.
“I remember going to a restaurant for the first time with my dad and ordering ‘chips and ketchup,’ and the lady literally brought Lays potato chips,” she said. “Nigeria was colonized by the British, so in school we learned using the British curriculum. Apparently, Americans have different words from the British — in that moment I realized chips here are ‘fries,’ which was tough for me to get used to.”
She credits ELL classes at MCC for helping improve her English and giving her more confidence.
“Diane Lauber, my first ELL professor, was the best at explaining and encouraging ELL students,” she said. “I certainly miss her and cannot wait to give her a big hug for doing that.”
Agundu said she has been particularly impressed by the diversity at MCC and said one of her favorite events was the Diversity Summit organized by Multicultural & International Student Services Coordinator Maria McDuffie Clark, Dean of Students Pam Flaherty and Associate Dean of International, Multicultural and Veterans Affairs Pat Demaras in Maine during spring break 2019.
“I felt like there was magic in the air because through these workshops and activities, 30 new friends became family,” she said.
Agundu, who lives in Lowell, plans to return to Nigeria in 10 years to continue working with the nonprofit organization We Will Not Be Silent that works to end rape and sexual assault. She also plans to help build a maternity hospital along with her sister, who wants to be a pediatrician.
“But don’t worry, I will come back to visit all my MCC family,” she said. “If anyone needs consultations or family discounts in delivering babies in 11 years, call me.”
For more information, visit www.middlesex.mass.edu.