It was sometime last year when Kate Ekanem from Nigeria decided she wanted to get back to school and get a proper degree on anything writing-related and on women studies.
During the days which turned to weeks, and weeks which became months, she applied to three universities in the United States and Canada. She wanted to study abroad. Home was still home sweet home, but for her: home was somewhere you find comfort, fulfillment, joy, and love. She craved for a diverse, advanced, education, something that would challenge her to do more.
This decision wasn’t made to fulfill any academic requirements for human life, it was to discover what people can do when they’re in the classroom. Yes, she had been exposed on certain levels to real life experiences which had developed her in ways she will never be able to explain. But school was school, and there were certain things and experiences she had to get from school.
So, she made up her mind to seek out the wisdom and knowledge she lacked.
Universities in the United States and Canada are so expensive that she thought it better not to dare to dream, especially when her parents didn’t have enough to feed themselves. It was too big a dream. But she went ahead and applied to three schools, two of which admitted her, however, she had to pay the full tuition of $68,000 a year, not including room and board.
Yes, you saw it right, $68,000!
She told some people close to her about her decision and her challenge. It is funny how the world works because during that period, she realized that some people will never give you as much support as you need when you need it. Her advice is that you do not at any point of your life rely on anyone, or give up over someone’s opinion. People will fail you. They’ll push you up the ladder and leave you somewhere in the middle to either fall and break your ribs, or remain stuck all your life. This was not going to stop Kate from believing in her dreams.
There was no way she could raise $68,000 a year, so she continued to search. During the process she began to feel discouraged.
In the past, Lauren C. Anderson had been her best mentor, always providing support whenever she needed it. She told Lauren about her plans and she suggested Muhlenberg College. The description sounded like what she wanted but she was afraid because the tuition was the challenge as usual.
Months later, she was lucky enough to join an official trip to New York, and Lauren, who lived in faraway Maine came all the way down to New York to drive her to Pennsylvania, for a Muhlenberg campus tour. Yes, Lauren is that sweet. The school was everything she wanted, the library, the topnotch classrooms, the stadium, sports center, gym, theatre, art center, and oh my, she could barely contain her excitement! She wanted to be nowhere else.
She got invited by the VP for an enrollment interview over lunch at the award-winning dining hall. Every word he said to her during lunch changed her perspective on life.
One night, she got the best mail that had ever come to her box; she was admitted to Muhlenberg College and was granted a huge scholarship. Kate remembers screaming so loud that her heart ached, and the next minute, she was on the floor, shedding rivers of tears. The college grant was a huge one, but she still had to complete some part of it and that became another headache. People promised and failed, some did the little they could, and others literally avoided her just so she couldn’t bother them.
It was 4 weeks to the tuition deadline, which was still a big amount in Nigerian currency, and by the second week, her whole life was a huge mess. She was depressed, sick, and was so alone. One day, as destiny would have it, she was conversing with someone who told her how to reach out to someone who could help her. She didn’t believe it at the time. She had been let down so many times that believing in anyone was too risky.
As she was sitting in this man’s office (she can’t mention his name for security purposes), she sat there thinking that if this man refuses to help her, she will have to let this dream pass her by, and forget about ever going to college.
Kate Ekanem is now in America, majoring in Media and Communications, and minoring in Women and Gender Studies because that man didn’t say no. He didn’t know her from anywhere, she wasn’t his child or related to him in any way, but she remembered how he had stared at her deeply, reading through her soul and giving her that one line which has changed her whole life completely. It is rare to find people of this nature, even rarer to believe that they exist.
Lauren was there for her through all of these stages. She called almost every day, telling her what to do and what not to do, assuring her that everything will be alright and at some point she felt her mother had finally been resurrected, because with Lauren, she felt a motherly love.
To all those who supported her at some point along the journey, she is so thankful.
On her orientation day she said goodbye to her parents and family members, and was officially oriented into the school community. There was a candlelight event, the sky was bright, and somehow, she couldn’t stop herself from the tears of disbelief, joy, and fulfillment.
She is here to get better, to learn, to share, to inspire, to break records, to explore, to achieve more and more, and to love, because right here, love is our number one language.
All this was made possible because she has a God who loves her dearly.
She is home, far away from home.