Back home in Nigeria, Chukwuemeka Ibebuike – or “Chuks” as he’s affectionately known on campus – never knew what it’s like to have steady electricity. He went months in Nigeria without power and, like America’s President Abraham Lincoln, studied by candlelight or lantern.
“Ever since I was born, I have never lived in Nigeria where I can stay one whole week without the lights going off,” Chuks said.
“It’s not because it’s unpaid. No. They don’t have electricity, because the government says they’re going to put money into power structure and improve the megawatts. But every year, it’s the same story,” he said. “Every single year, you find children who read with open flames.”
This lack of electricity – along with the dramatic decline of the Nigerian naira against the dollar – is why Chuks pushes himself.
A physics major, Chuks took as many as 24 credits per semester to graduate a semester early. He worked two jobs – at the university’s budget office and Learning Center – hoping to save his parents money. He also does independent research for Physics Professor Dr. Hauke Busch, testing blade-less wind-turbine designs to generate clean energy.
It’s not easy. Being in a new country – overwhelmed by cultural differences and worrying about government corruption back home – made college difficult.
But, despite great obstacles, Chuks never made excuses to professors.
“I can’t bring myself to tell them,” he said. “You suck it all in and grind and try to do your best every single day. Because at the end of the day, the syllabus applies to everyone equally, no matter you are not on an equal playing field. That is how it is.”
Taking a heavy class load made Chuks’ grade-point-average lower than he wanted. But he felt compelled to help his family and save resources for five siblings. Last year, it cost about 500 naira for one U.S. Dollar.
“My parents never asked me to sacrifice, you understand,” Chuks said. “That is something I’ve learned. My parents would rather suffer than see me stressed out. But that doesn’t make me happy. It is wrong on my own part not to do the best I can to help them out.”
He values the education he got here so much, Chuks plans to send his own children to Georgia College someday.
“I love it here. I’ve come to love it. I’ve come to realize what a blessing it’s been for me,” he said. “This place gives you something. It gives you everything you feel you’ve lost back home.”
Director Dr. Eric Spears said Chuks truly cares about everyone and brings an extra layer of compassion to the International Education Center.
“Chukwuemeka is a quintessential international student – always willing to step out of his comfort zone to engage others in a meaningful way. He brings out the best of everyone he meets,” Spears said.
“He never complains but remains grateful with the opportunities his family provides,” Spears added. “He not only represents the best of Nigeria but also the best at Georgia College.”
Many Nigerians come to America for college and never leave. But Chuks wants to use his hard-won education to better his country.
First, he hopes to get a graduate degree in accounting from Georgia College. Second, he’ll apply to the University of South Carolina for a masters in electrical engineering.
Then Chuks plans to go back to Nigeria, build an electrical power grid and use the country’s plentiful sunlight to create reusable energy.
After that? He wants to run for governor and, someday, president of Nigeria.
“I’m thinking about it every single minute,” Chuks said. “I’ve come to understand that doing nothing doesn’t solve anything. If you want change, you have to be that change.”