Finding success a long way from home
To say Emmanuel Ofoegbunam (BMgt ’11) had a plan when he first left Nigeria for post-secondary studies would vastly underrate his intrepid spirit.
Now 25, a recent U of L grad and a junior accountant at Calgary’s Edon Management, Ofoegbunam’s philosophy is rooted in taking on challenges and adventures. It led him first to Malaysia to begin his education, then brought him across the world to Canada and the University of Lethbridge.
“You can just read about something or some place but I want to feel it, to experience it so that I can tell the story in my own way,” says Ofoegbunam, who graduated with a bachelor of management degree in accounting and finance.
His people, from the Igbo tribe, are known for their business acumen, and as Ofoegbunam says, “We work for ourselves, we can get it done.”
So it was with that attitude and unfailing support from his parents that he left his hometown of Onitsha for Binary University College of Management & Entrepreneurship in Kuala Lumpur.
“When I left home to go to Malaysia, that was the most challenging part,” says Ofoegbunam. “When I finished my studies, as much as I’m very close to my parents, sometimes you have to give up something to achieve greater things. They’ve been with me, they’ve supported me every way possible with advice, moral support, financial support – you name it.”
Setting his sights on Canada, Ofoegbunam was accepted to three schools but the U of L quickly won out.
“The most important thing was the turnaround time for replies from the International Centre for Students office and the Registrar’s office,” he says. “The cycle time was one day maximum for phone calls or e-mails. It really made me feel like I was in a one-on-one relationship with the people in Lethbridge.”
That didn’t change when he arrived on campus in April 2007 when he was confronted with, among other things, windy -2C weather and a daunting list of tasks in a completely foreign country.
“It wasn’t anything what I expected . . . it’s better than what I expected,” says Ofoegbunam, thanks largely to the assistance of ICS and specifically International Liaison Officer Charlene Janes.
“I asked her the first week I was here, “Do you treat everybody like this?” She was not just a lady sitting behind a desk getting her job done. She talked to me, gave me advice like a son and that blew me away. She was so helpful from day one.”
The cultural challenges Ofoegbunam faced were many, let alone a weather cycle he had never imagined (both Nigeria and Malaysia average temperatures in the 28C range). Janes helped him get settled, find an apartment, register for classes and meet the people in the Faculty of Management who would set him on his path. When he again had questions on what major to focus on following his second year, she facilitated meetings with the professors who would best serve his needs. It was those conversations, what Ofoegbunam calls “out of boundary” talks where his professors related their experience that really pointed him towards his career.
He completed his studies in December 2010 and two weeks later, was employed.
“Now that I live in Calgary, I really see it. If you’re a student, Lethbridge is the place for you,” he says. “There are less distractions, which is good because am I here to just have fun or to study and the answer for me was simple and straightforward. This was the environment that helped me do better with my studies.”
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• Ofoegbunam’s parents planned to come to Canada for Spring Convocation but were forced to stay behind when his grandmother passed away. “I would have appreciated if they were here with me today but I know they are with me in spirit.”
• Ofoegbunam had never seen snow before moving to Lethbridge. “I didn’t just see it, I felt it,” he says, adding with a laugh. “The wind, God forbid, it’s bad. When it gets cold, the wind adds to it and it gets to minus-1 million, at least that’s what it feels like.”
• Summing up his educational experience at the University, Ofoegbunam says, “It wasn’t good, it was perfect.”
This story first appeared in the Legend. To view the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.