Courage and Community

The transition to college can be an intimidating one, even when you grew up just a few miles from campus. For Chinaza Okonkwo, now a junior at Rutgers–New Brunswick, the close-knit community of women at Douglass Residential College, the women’s residential college at Rutgers, made all the difference. “Living at Douglass really helped me during my first year,” says Chinaza, who is from Piscataway.

Now Chinaza mentors other Douglass students and lives in the Human Rights House, a special-interest community of 20 students in the Jameson Residence Hall. Students from the Human Rights House, who have been studying Romania and children’s rights, traveled to Romania over winter break to meet with educators and deliver educational toys.

Born in Nigeria, Chinaza came to the United States when she was 4. A double-major in criminal justice and history, she hopes to work in Africa after graduating.

 

LIKE A “LITTLE CITY”

“As soon as I got to Rutgers, I really fell in love with it. There’s a really great sense of community here. Rutgers is like a little city. Being here makes me feel like I’m in the real world, doing grown-up things.”

CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY

“I live on Douglass in an all-female environment. Coming from high school to college is a really big transition, but having a bunch of girls with the same kind of career goals really helped. It fosters a sense of community.”

Rutgers inspired me to have a more global perspective.

—Chinaza Okonkwo, criminal justice and history major

TRIP TO ROMANIA

“The students in the Human Rights House traveled to Romania over winter break. We learned more about children’s rights and how those rights are applied to that country’s child welfare system. We visited NGOs and worked with social workers in various Romanian communities. The trip was a life-changing experience that helped me realize I have the potential to bring about change in the world.”

ACTIVISM AT RUTGERS—AND BEYOND

“I participated in the 16 Days of Activism program at Douglass, and I was a videographer on a trip to Uganda with a religious nongovernmental organization, the African Christian Fellowship. In high school I wasn’t very open about going abroad, but after being at Rutgers, meeting so many people, and learning about different things, it gave me the courage to go to Uganda—even though I’m terrified of flying. Rutgers inspired me to have a more global perspective.”

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

“I like the fact that Rutgers is a big school. There are so many different people here, and there’s something for everyone. I’m involved in campus ministries at Rutgers, and I feel like if I went to a smaller school, I wouldn’t have been able to find those organizations. It’s so diverse here, and it makes it easy to find a group of people you feel comfortable around. You can’t be close-minded at Rutgers. Because you’re in this diverse environment, you’re forced to think outside the box.”