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Stranger in His Own Homeland: One ICONS Intern Reflects on Lessons from Nigeria


Stranger in His Own Homeland: One ICONS Intern Reflects on Lessons from Nigeria

April 20, 2016Valerie Snaman

Chineme Obiefune is used to living outside of his comfort zone. Originally from a small town in Maryland, he left the United States to spend his middle school years in Nigeria attending a boarding school at the Loyola Jesuit College. Before leaving, he was completely unprepared. The only things he knew about Nigeria he had learned from reading books and talking to family members.

“I was technically a stranger in my homeland, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a scary experience,” he said. “But if not for that change of scenery, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It exposed me to the world at a young age, allowed me to interact with my culture on a deeper level, and influenced my interest in international relations.” 

His interest in international relations influenced him to pursue an internship with START and the ICONS Project.

“I have a fair amount of Model UN experience and the ICONS project simulations were just another way for me to involve myself in the crisis management process of Model UN that I loved so much,” Obiefune said.

That same calling previously drove him to intern with ChangeTheWorld.org, where he consulted for non-profit organizations such as Kansas City’s MINDDRIVE. In this project, he created a summer camp for underperforming students who were not responding well to a traditional classroom environment.

“Beginning as a freshman, I knew that I wanted to pursue business, but I didn’t know which area was right for me,” Obiefune said. “After my work with these non-profits, I realized that I loved problem-solving and adding value to an organization I care about. Having to coordinate with multiple non-profits was not easy, but it taught me management skills, which have definitely helped me during my time at START.” 

Obiefune said his time in the Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Quality Enhancement Systems & Teams (QUEST) program has also been incredibly formative in paving his career path. The program brings students from all disciplines together to work on different consulting projects.

“QUEST really showed me how little I actually knew about consulting,” he said. “It pushed me to better myself and focus on my personal development so that I can better serve others in the future.”

During his time at START, Obiefune’s top goal has been to improve his research skills. He said he is already seeing the internship benefit him as he further develops data collection and analysis skills that will aid him in his future pursuits. Short-term, Obiefune is looking to pursue consulting. In the long-term, he is exploring the idea of a career in international development. 

Despite a sharp career focus, Obiefune is also using his college days to have some fun – whether watching shows such as Peaky Blinders, reading Japanese manga comics, or writing his own music tracks. “Trust me when I say that I’m gonna be dropping some fire in the coming months,” he said. 

This active interest in music stems from his years in Nigeria. Obiefune points to his experiences with Nigerian churches as the most memorable aspect of his time there.

“It didn’t matter how special or ordinary the day was. No matter what, everybody was jumping, singing, dancing and just enjoying the experience,” Obiefune said. “Compared to my more subdued church in the United States, this was completely different. It was amazing to look at both experiences and see how two different cultures can move and praise together in different ways.”