KOKOMO, Ind. — Oluwatimilehin Soyoola left her home in Nigeria at age 17, pursuing her dreams of becoming a doctor.
She moved halfway across the world to enroll at Indiana University Kokomo, where family friends assured her she would earn a respected degree, while having hands on research opportunities.
Oluwatimilehin, who goes by Timmy, researches with Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, serves as an orientation leader, and participates in the science club and Light and Truth Christian student organization.
“I think IU Kokomo is a great place to be an international student,” she said. “It is a community of people who care and love. The services, such as tutoring, math labs, the English as a second language writing center, are marvelous. They increase my chances of being successful in my classes.”
Timmy is one of 54 international students earning degrees at IU Kokomo, from countries including Bangladesh, Colombia, Haiti, Kuwait, Nigeria, Russia,
Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Vietnam. The majority are graduate students in the Master of Business Administration program, with growing numbers in the Master of Science in Nursing and in undergraduate programs.
She graduated from a private school in Nigeria at age 16 and gained admission to colleges there. Her career aspiration is to be a gynecologist, and she believes she will have more opportunities with a degree from the United States.
“Coming here, I thought it would give me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge,” she said. “Studying in the U.S. gives me the chance to earn a degree that is recognized around the world.”
Whether she returns to Nigeria as a doctor or works elsewhere in the world, she plans to use her education to help the women and children there.
“Back in my country, there are so many incidents that happen to women, like early pregnancy and abortions,” Timmy said. “I want to educate teenage girls and prevent early pregnancies and abortions. By God’s grace, if I am able to be a gynecologist, I hope to provide great equipment, like 3D and 4D ultrasounds that are readily available in this country, to help take care of women and their babies.”
Her transition to IU Kokomo was made easier by enrolling in a Freshman Learning Community (FLC) specifically for students in the sciences, and by orientation leaders, who helped her through the enrollment process and answered her questions about student life throughout her first year.
In her FLC, Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology and anatomy, encouraged students to find research opportunities as soon as possible, and brought professors in to talk about their projects. Timmy found Chauret’s research interesting, and asked to participate. After taking a molecular biology class, she began work in his lab.
As Chauret’s research assistant, she collects water samples from Foster Park and other places around Kokomo, then extracts DNA from it to work with it using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine, with the ultimate goal of detecting a specific human fecal contaminant, detecting potential sources of water pollution.
“Working in the lab has really shaped my confidence,” she said. “I am working with different equipment and able to do things I never thought I would be able to do on my own. This experience we make me stand out among the crowd when I apply to medical school. It has been a great experience.”
Her roommate at the Annex, the apartments across the street from campus, was an orientation leader, which led Timmy to be one as well.
“When I saw the impact she made on my successful start in college, I decided I needed to help other people the way she helped me,” she said. “We guide incoming students and tell them everything about college, and give them advice on how to get a head start and achieve their goals in four years.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana