Praise Lasekan ‘25 checked off two major items from his to-do list this academic year: he traveled over 6,000 miles from Nigeria to the U.S. for the first time and he became a Retriever.
Lasekan’s cousin encouraged him to include UMBC on his list of top U.S. colleges to consider, and he was thrilled by what he saw. His decision was easy, he says. At UMBC he could study at the U.S. university of his choice, with the added bonus of living with some of his Nigerian family in Baltimore, home to an active Nigerian community.
A few months prior to Lasekan’s arrival at UMBC, Adam Julian moved to Baltimore from North Carolina to join UMBC’s new Center for Global Engagement (CGE). He serves as director of international student and scholar services at the Center, which is the first point of contact for over 1,000 international students at UMBC. CGE provides support and advising on everything from the visa process and travel to enrolling in classes and accessing campus resources.
Lasekan and Julian met through the Center for Global Engagement, and UMBC News brought them together for a conversation about their first year at UMBC.
A conversation with Adam and Praise
Adam: Praise, why did you choose UMBC?
Praise: What really caught my attention is the way UMBC loves undergraduates participating in research, which is something of importance to me. I also saw that UMBC actually accepts Black people. I read in an article that UMBC graduates the most Black students in the sciences that go on to get a Ph.D.
Praise: And why did you choose to come to UMBC?
Adam: I came to UMBC because of the opportunity that’s here for international education. Over the last couple of years UMBC has undergone a process of aligning its global education goals and broader university-wide goals. I was looking for an opportunity to be a part of something that’s really growing and developing. I wanted a chance to help build and grow CGE.
Adam: What are you hoping to do in your first year, in your second year?
Praise: In my first year I want to learn about the environment, learn how things run, and explore majors that interest me. Then, for my second year, when I see research that really interests me, I’ll speak to the professor. I like that, at UMBC, if I like something that the professor is teaching, I can ask them questions and do research on it. This is the first time I’ve had professors who welcome questions.
Adam: What are some of your goals around research?
Praise: I’d love to learn the process. I went to a secondary school that had a very investigative environment. I saw people perform different experiments, but I didn’t really understand it until I participated in one and then I fell in love with research as a way to address the world’s problems.
Praise: What have you enjoyed most so far in your time at UMBC?
Adam: Having the opportunity to work with students like you in their journey, and ultimately lead to a better world, is what gets me up in the morning. I think UMBC is a great place to have more opportunities to do that.
Praise: Are there any special people involved in all this who help you along your journey?
Adam: Yes, from senior leadership on down, the Center for Global Engagement has the support of the campus community. In particular, we have a lot of different student organizations that are really an essential part of creating a community for international students. What we have here at UMBC is a network of people who are here to help each other achieve their personal, professional, and academic goals. It’s special.
Adam: What are your impressions of the United States? Have you been before? What’s different than you thought it would be? What surprised you?
Praise: Actually, this is my first time in the United States. I’ve been in Nigeria my whole life. I’m a born and bred Nigerian. I think movies made me think that the U.S. would be a very different place. I got here and saw that the sky is still the same as in Nigeria, but the way things run is quite different. I’m still a young man, so it’s very easy to adapt. That’s the main reason why I’m here: to learn.
A hub for global connections
The CGE serves as a hub for students, faculty, and staff who are interested in engaging with the world. Through partnership with the Division of Professional Studies, UMBC’s English Language Institute became a part of the CGE, making it a one-stop shop for international students. Additionally, the CGE’s U.S. Fulbright Program and Education Abroad programs, which resumed this January after a pause during COVID-19, offer UMBC students, faculty, and staff special and rigorous opportunities for learning, research, and engagement experiences on nearly every continent.
Even with the challenges that COVID-19 presents, the CGE continues to provide support to help UMBC students access global learning opportunities.
Over the past few years, the CGE has partnered with other campus leaders to help UMBC grow its global connections as a strategic priority. In November 2021, the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) recognized this work, honoring UMBC with its Gold Award in Leadership and Pervasiveness for Internationalization.
The Education Abroad office will hold its next Study Abroad 101 online session on February 21, 2022. The CGE is located at UMBC’s University Center, Room 207.
Header image: and Praise Lasekan (L) and Adam Julian inside the UMBC Commons. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.