Members of the Nigerian education community, representatives of U.S. colleges and universities, parents, and most importantly students, it’s my pleasure to be with you this morning to open the 17th Annual EducationUSA College Fair.
It’s been a number of years since I was in your shoes, but I remember the optimism, excitement, and challenge of beginning my studies at the university level. And I imagine it’s those feelings that have brought you here today.
I first want to say, you’re in good company. More than 9,000 Nigerian students currently study in the United States. In fact, more students come to the United States from Nigeria than any other African country. And we’ve had this relationship for a long time. From leaders like Nnamde Azikiwe, Nigeria’s First President who attended Howard University, Lincoln University, University of Pennsylvania to modern entertainers like Tiwa Savage, who is an alumna of the Berklee College of Music. For decades, Nigerians have gone to the United States to study. International students enrich our campuses and communities with unique perspectives. Our hope, too, is that they return to their home countries with a deeper understanding of U.S. culture and values, as well as increased knowledge and skills. This understanding forms the foundation for collaboration that is crucial to addressing global issues like climate change, economic inclusion, and gender equality.
At Embassy Abuja, we’re doing our part to connect young Nigerians with their American peers. EducationUSA is central to our educational diplomacy. The EducationUSA Advising Center provides students and parents with accurate, comprehensive, and current information on U.S. universities and colleges. From guidance on the application process to searching for scholarship opportunities, EducationUSA serves thousands of talented students. In this upcoming academic year alone, EducationUSA members received over $5 million in financial aid and scholarships. 30 students received support through the Opportunity Funds Program which assists highly talented, low-income students to attend school on a full scholarship. We’re proud of the work of EducationUSA here in Nigeria, and we’re glad to bring a little bit of America to you today and tomorrow through the contributions of the representatives of more than 35 colleges and universities.
Going to college is a transition, no matter if you’re attending class two hours from where you grew up or traveling to the other side of the ocean. But with study in the United States, Nigerians in particular will miss the pepper and spice in their foods, more affordable prices at the salon, and even Indomie noodles. We have Ramen noodles in the United States, but I’m told, it’s just not the same. But I can assure you, for these small sacrifices, you will gain access to the finest liberal arts colleges and research universities in the world. You’ll be exposed to professional development opportunities and internships. You’ll leave your U.S. institution not only filled with knowledge but with the independent, “can-do” spirit that has defined the United States since the founding of its first universities nearly three centuries ago.
Welcome to today’s fair. Ask questions. Take advantage of those who have traveled so far to meet you. And good luck to you all.