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Building a better future

Sophomore civil engineering major Eugenia Akurang cofounded the International Student Association and serves as secretary to the African Student Association. Photo via Eugenia Akurang.

Her first international trip from Ghana to the United States was to come to Bradley University.

Coming to a new country with no immediate family nearby can be quite challenging, but Eugenia Akurang, a sophomore civil engineering major, believes this is all the more frustrating when you’re of a minority ethnicity.

Akurang uses her experience to help and advise other students of minority cultures with school and extracurricular activities.

She is a peer mentor in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and secretary of the African Student Association.

“Bradley really has made an effort in being inclusive to international students especially with initiatives from the ODI, but it is still not as helpful as one would expect it to be,” Akurang said.

Akurang also co-founded the International Student Association along with Javier Soerra, a student from Honduras.

“In one word, Eugenia is fantastic,” Soerra said. “She is considerate with other people’s opinions and ideas and is always seeking what is best for the members of the organization.”

Akurang said she had mixed feelings about the reality of diversity here.

She spoke of a situation when she went to a restaurant with a friend and her father who are also Africans. She said the waitress thought the group did not know English very well.

“She started gesturing with her hands to explain every word she said,” Akurang said. “I couldn’t do anything about it because in African culture, it would have been disrespectful to speak to the waitress directly when there is an older person with you, and my friend’s father decided not to do anything about it.”

Akurang has had positive experiences as well. Her roommate since freshman year found that living with an international student was an opportunity for both of them.

“I like to watch Eugenia try out all these new things that she has never done before but at the same time, it is so interesting to learn so many new things about a different culture,” said Aleya Moore, a sophomore user experience major.

Nana Kwame Kankam, a senior electrical engineering major, is also from Ghana and said Akurang is smart with a great sense of humor.

“It’s especially fun because she’s from Ghana as well,” Kwame Kankam said. “Someone to talk to about home, to feel nostalgic with and to serve as a remedy of it.”

Akurang said that she misses the milk chocolate Kingsbite from back home in Ghana.

Eventually, she wants to use what she has learned with her civil engineering studies and involvement in American Society of Civil Engineers and Society of Women Engineers to help those in her home country.

“I am studying civil engineering so that I can build homeless shelters for my people back home,” Akurang said. “Getting an education back in Ghana would have been much easier, but I wanted to come out of there and get an education in a place that is much more advanced technologically and take my knowledge back to better the country.”

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