KOKOMO, Ind. — It takes courage to leave home at 18 years old, to live alone in a new country and navigate its language and culture.
A dream of becoming a nurse inspired Elizabeth Dada to do just that, moving from Nigeria to Indiana, where she enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo — and found a second home.
“It was my first time traveling into a different country, and I was going to live here without my family,” she said. “It was a big transition. I made friends here, and turned them into my family. I got to know almost everyone on campus.
“I felt loved,” she added. “When I didn’t know things, I knew who to go to, and that I would be helped. I really loved that about IU Kokomo.”
Before graduating in December, Dada worked on campus as a peer advisor and orientation guide, helping lead tours for incoming students and their families. This gave her an opportunity to share the warm welcome she had received, and provide reassurance.
“I was able to show them that it’s going to be OK, and you’re going to feel like this is your second home too,” she said. “Being new to the campus is like being new to a country. I can offer a smile, and make them feel warm and at home, and assure them they will enjoy this experience. For me, it’s an environment in which I’m welcomed, it’s a place I love, and can study, and pursue my dream.”
Her dream of becoming a nurse began in Nigeria, after seeing nurses care for her mother after a surgery.
“I loved the way the nurses took care of her,” Dada said. “Being around them, and seeing how they help people, I felt that was what I needed to do, to give back and take care of people too, in my own little way.”
Her family had friends in Indianapolis, so she started her college journey there before transferring to IU Kokomo, where she felt more at home.
Her nursing degree did not come easy — especially since she was learning in English, her second language.
“I had struggles with the reading, but I knew I didn’t want to give up,” Dada said. “I reminded myself it was worth the struggle, and I just kept picking myself up and trying again.”
It paid off in her clinical experiences, where patients have complimented her calm, kind bedside manner.
She excelled outside the classroom as well, with her campus jobs and as a member of the Nurses Bible Fellowship, and the Student Nursing Association. While attending the Indiana Association of Nursing Students’ state conference with one of her classes, she was elected as the organization’s state treasurer, one of her proudest accomplishments.
Her classes and organizations gave her opportunities to travel to places including Chicago, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh. She hopes that her family might be able to come from Nigeria to see her this spring.
Since graduating in December, Dada has moved to Indianapolis, where she works part time in a health care-related job, while studying for her licensing tests. Her goal is to work as a medical-surgical nurse at a hospital, and eventually return for an advanced nursing degree.
“I have to decide if I want to be a family nurse practitioner, or fall in love with another way of being a nurse,” she said. “However I do it, being a nurse is definitely my calling.”