Intern Spotlight: Rahila Olanrewaju

This is the third in a series of spotlights on our spring 2017 student interns.  Learning Life’s students this spring are translating documents, conducting research, fundraising, doing outreach locally and internationally for our Citizen Diplomacy Initiative (CDI), and other work.  Rahila Olanrewaju, interviewed below, is helping with CDI program evaluation research and Learning Life educational content development, among other activities.  

Rahila OlanrewajuWhere were you born and raised?

I was born in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, but moved to the state of Maryland via the U.S. Diversity Visa Program. This program provides visas to countries with historically low rates of immigration and gives individuals the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Since relocating to the U.S. at age 7, I have lived in Maryland.

What school do you attend, and what is your year and major there?

I am a freshman Banneker/Key Scholar in the Honors College at the University of Maryland, and am studying Economics, Government & Politics with a concentration in International Relations.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy watching movies with my family, watching Ted Talks, writing poetry, practicing yoga and attending spin classes!

Is there a life experience you have had that has particularly shaped you as a person thus far? If so, what is it, and how has it shaped you?

Relocating to America from Nigeria has opened a world of opportunity for me, at the same time it has exposed me to challenges unique to immigrants trying to adjust to a new world.  Living in the United States I have also observed many of the difficulties disadvantaged families face here and have volunteered with non-profit organizations such as the Manna Food Center, Interfaith Clothing Center, and the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless in order to serve families in need.

With the opportunity to live in the U.S. and receive an internationally-focused education, I am reminded each day that no dream is too large.  I hope to someday return to my country of origin and engage in development efforts in West Africa.

What are you career plans?

I plan to pursue a career in global economic development and policy. As a Nigerian-born American, I have a keen interest in social inequalities within America and West Africa and would like to work with an international organization where I can impact lives. My current interests lie in food security, poverty alleviation, and gender and racial equity in access to education.

Why did you choose to intern with Learning Life?

I saw an opportunity to connect individuals across cultural lines, something I’ve been trying to do as an immigrant myself. I also wanted to engage with underprivileged communities in a different way than I had in the past, and the Citizen Diplomacy Initiative gave me the opportunity to do so on an international level. It’s also pretty awesome to be part of a team where everyone is aware of the need for global interdependence in addressing social concerns. Each of the interns on the Citizen Diplomacy Initiative has contributed to their communities in a unique way, and it’s inspiring to discuss topics like inequality and development from different perspectives with my peers.

What is the most beautiful place you have seen on Earth, and why is it so beautiful?

The most beautiful place I have seen on Earth is my grandfather’s village in Abia State, Nigeria. He serves as king in his community, located in the southeastern part of Nigeria, and it is amazing to visit with him every few years and see the changes he has been able to drive forward with the support of his community. It is such a beautiful place to behold, still one with nature, where the roosters still crow to signal the new day, and the streams run clear, with birds darting from one perch to another.