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This is a guest blog entry written by Elena Ikeocha. If you want to read more stories, visit viterbiadmission.usc.edu/blacklives.

Hello there! My name is Elena and I am a senior studying chemical engineering here at USC. Prior to coming to USC, I lived in Delaware, where my family has resided since 2012. I am an immigrant from Nigeria who came to the US in 2008. If I had to experience a culture shock it would be in those first few years of my time in the U.S.

Being Nigerian, and an immigrant in a new country I learned how to assimilate really quickly. That tied with my family’s constant relocation, to different states from 2008-2012, meant that I had gotten really good at being comfortable in seemingly unfamiliar situations. I learned how to go with the flow and how to make the best of what I am given. It was with this mindset and experience that I found it easier to go to USC, which was not only in a different state from where I’m used to but also on a different coast.

USC is not the first predominantly white institution I have been a part of. In my mom’s quest to provide a better life for my siblings and me here within the united states, she enrolled us in private school. At the private school, I went to from 6th grade till 8th grade my siblings and I made up between 50%-75% of the entire black population at any one point of my time there. With that, I had grown used to being the only person that looked like me in a room, or even within a school which is sad to say. Coming to USC was slightly different than my middle school in that there are more black people that go here, but also not that different as I have been the only black person, not even female in my classes. I didn’t notice at first because that situation wasn’t new to me. But at the same time, I never felt left out and ostracized because there are plenty of other women of color within my major. 

The diversity in general that I found at USC, is higher on average than I would have found at some of the other universities I was interested in on the east coast. Although I am the only black person in my class, I am not the only female nor are there few females. Viterbi surprised me by having so many females in engineering. I was truly expecting to be one of the few girls if not the only girl in my class, which is how it would have been if I had chosen any other engineering school. For that I am grateful.

I came into college secure in my heritage and who I am because I am an immigrant with a large family. I was instilled different doctrines than other Americans and found that versatility not only in thinking, but also in my approach to new people, new states, and new countries are what makes me different. I have been in many situations where I am the only black person, the only female, the only immigrant, etc and it has only made me stronger. 

I am glad that throughout high school and my time here in Viterbi that I have gained a plethora of diverse friendships with people who have been in similar situations, or who haven’t been but are open in their mindset to new things.

Viterbi Voices