Victor Oshiomah headshot.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

International Graduate Student Finds Community at St. Thomas

When Victor Oshiomah started his college education, he never imagined he would be going back to school for a career change at a university thousands of miles from his home country. Oshiomah grew up in Nigeria, where he decided to study civil engineering, as he considered a career in construction. During his second year, his interest in technology grew, but he was unable to switch to this area of study.

“In Nigeria, you’re expected to already know what you want to pursue,” he explained. “You don’t get the option to change your major to something else. You either start over or drop out of college.”

Not wanting to disrupt his college education, Oshiomah completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering.

After college, Oshiomah’s career path differed from what he had studied. He worked in banking for a few months before applying for jobs closer to his interests. He worked as a technical assistant for the CEO of a Nigerian company called Workforce Group. In that role, Oshiomah learned more about data analytics and digital marketing. Fascinated by what he was learning, he was eager for more work in the digital marketing niche and started building webpages for Workforce Group. He continued to gain experience in digital marketing at other companies by later working as a web manager and ad specialist.

Oshiomah decided to go back to school in fall 2022 to study software engineering to increase his knowledge of other areas of technology, like coding. During his research on schools in the U.S. offering software engineering, Oshiomah found the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Victor Oshiomah (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

“I chose St. Thomas for its faculty expertise, program design and structure,” Oshiomah stated. “The fact that most of the graduate programs in software were designed with career changers like me in mind also played a crucial role in my decision.”

Compared with his undergraduate experience, Oshiomah has enjoyed the flexibility and classes specific to his interests. One challenge Oshiomah noticed was finding a community as a graduate student compared to the variety of clubs and organizations offered for undergraduate students.

He decided to take on a leadership role to help other graduate students, especially those who are international, to feel connected and to have community within the university. He started an informal group, working with the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) where international graduate students can build connections, whether it’s taking a break from coursework to play soccer or communicating via WhatsApp.

Oshiomah also joined the campus fellowship group, Chi Alpha, a natural fit because of his faith background; his father was a pastor and Oshiomah was involved in worship music when he was young. With Chi Alpha, he has found a sense of community, singing, praying, and connecting with other students who share his faith and passion for music.

“Coming here, I knew that I had to find some sort of faith group that I wanted to be part of,” Oshiomah said. “You want to nurture what you already have, so I wanted to be able to be part of a faith community while listening to people teach and share their experiences.”

In addition to his studies, Oshiomah works as a graduate student assistant for his academic advisers in software engineering, where he answers program questions for current and prospective students, and frequently updates information on the university’s local intranet system.

“Victor’s personality is so infectious,” said Laurie DuPont, the assistant director of academic operations and academic adviser for Graduate Engineering and Software. “He is always willing to help with anything; he is so self-sufficient, and we are fortunate to have him on our team.”

Oshiomah will be graduating with his degree in software engineering in December 2024.

“Victor has a bright future as a software engineer, and it has been such a joy getting to know him throughout his time at St. Thomas,” said Crystal Conway, the assistant director of academic operations and academic adviser for Graduate Engineering and Software. “He is passionate about finding meaningful professional experiences where he can challenge himself and put his new skill sets to the test to make a difference. I truly believe any sector will be lucky to have him!”

Oshiomah’s advice for students like himself who are international or are going back to school is to “just go for it.”

“It’s never too late to pursue a dream,” he stated. Oshiomah also believes it’s necessary to make the best of the resources available and to ask questions. “Especially international students, because you need guidance,” he added.