4:42 pm - Wednesday January 19, 2580

Breaking barriers beyond the shores of Africa: Nigerian lady, CHIOMA ONWUCHEKWA becomes first ever International Student, Black recipient in American history to win Tennessee Technological University’s PhD Teaching Award …winners chosen on how they uphold ethics, punctuality, preparedness, teamwork, and dedication to teaching *Doctoral candidate of environmental science-chemistry is the first Nigerian, African to ever win this award *Master’s degree holder from Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland revealed American research to focus on microplastics in the aquatic environment and to transport organic pollutants from one place to another *Cooking your own food is America is cheaper and healthier than going out to eat -CHIOMA *BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Editor

Breaking barriers beyond the shores of Africa:

Nigerian lady, CHIOMA ONWUCHEKWA becomes first ever International Student, Black recipient in American history to win Tennessee Technological University’s PhD Teaching Award

…winners chosen on how they uphold ethics, punctuality, preparedness, teamwork, and dedication to teaching

*Doctoral candidate of environmental science-chemistry is the first Nigerian, African to ever win this award

*Master’s degree holder from Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland revealed American research to focus on microplastics in the aquatic environment and to transport organic pollutants from one place to another *Cooking your own food in America is cheaper and healthier than going out to eat-CHIOMA                                                                                                                               *BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Editor

SHE’S A CHILD OF HISTORY, A STORY OF POSSIBILITY. Her true-life story is very inspirational. CHIOMA ONWUCHEKWA, a post-graduate degree holder from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland has become the latest recipient, first ever Nigerian International student, African; and Black in American history to win the prestigious Tennessee Technological University’s PhD Teaching Award.

According to the varsity selection committee, winners are chosen based on how they uphold ethics, punctuality, preparedness, teamwork, and dedication to teaching, among others. The PhD candidate of environmental science-chemistry is the first person to have won this international student scholarship award.

This award recipient earlier had a teaching scholarship to Tennessee Technological University. The award-winning scientist narrate her education adventure below:

What made you choose to study in Scotland and the United States?

With a background in chemistry, I wanted to branch out into the environmental side of

things and needed a programme that gave me a bird’s eye view of both energy and environmental management fused with chemistry. Furthermore, I got to live in a city that I had never been to and it’s beautiful.

I visited England many times before my postgraduate degree, but I had never been to Scotland. I got to experience new things, hear the great Scottish accent, and even got a glimpse of the Prince and Duchess of Cambridge during my time there.

As for United States, when I was searching for PhD programmes, it was important that I got into one that was interdisciplinary enough to expose me to relationships between the environment and other different areas of study beyond chemistry.

Within your time at Tennessee Technological University, what are some interesting things you’ve discovered in your research?

My research at Tennessee Technological University focuses on microplastics in the aquatic environment and one of the key parts of my work looks at how they’re able to transport organic pollutants from one place to another.

What do you plan to do with your PhD after graduating from Tennessee Technological University?

I will be working as an environment strategy specialist for Cummins Inc. and the United Nations projects.

Tell us what you like most about Scotland and the United States?

In Scotland, I like a drink called “irn-bru” (carbonated soft drink) and I think everyone needs to taste it. In the US, I love my uni’s town, ‘Cookeville.’ It’s quaint and small enough to not feel overwhelmed while still having lots to do. It’s also only an hour away from Nashville which is known to be a music city.

Do you think it would have made a difference if you studied at a local institution?

I’ve asked myself that question a few times and the one thing I would like to add is that being in the US provided me with the chance to attend conferences (pre-COVID-19 times) that I would have otherwise needed to make extensive travel arrangements for. I also probably would have not been able to attend because of all the visa requirements. Apart from that, it’s tricky to compare because I do not have the knowledge about getting my PhD back home.

Tell me about your hometown. What would you show me?

I am from Imo State in Southeastern Nigeria. I would show you the Mbari Cultural & Art Centre in Owerri which is an open space museum that houses artifacts and provides insights into the history of the Igbo tribe.

List your top three favourite things about the United States:

How large it is? I’m able to experience different types of holiday destinations. The US invests in research so I’m able to get my PhD and I’m grateful for that. It’s also the land of opportunities.

What’s the local food like in Scotland, the U.S and Nigeria? Tell us your most and least favourite…

The Scots love their ‘haggis’ (the national dish of Scotland in the form of a pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep) but a personal favourite of mine is fish and chips. In the US, I love biscuits but not a huge fan of cheese. From home, I love fried plantain and peppered goat meat.

What do you miss from home and how do you substitute it?

I miss my family. There is really no substitute for that, but we keep in touch through daily video calls.

What advice do you have for international students looking to go abroad?

Be open-minded because it is a whole new experience, both culturally and educationally. You will miss home, so get involved in activities beyond the classroom to help you meet new people (joining a gym or church, local volunteer groups and taking up any opportunity to meet new friends).

Do you have any tips for students on budgeting their finances abroad?

I am still looking for tips myself. Although I will say two things that have helped me so far is cooking your own food (cheaper and healthier than going out to eat) and always buying store brands when you can.

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