The Current Student Experience
Johnny Ekofo-Ntulama is a Master in Education Student at Northeastern University, Charlotte’s campus. He came to the US nearly 8 years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He enrolled at Northeastern in the Winter 2013 session, and is set to graduate in Fall 2014. As he is nearing completion of his degree requirements, he shares some personal experiences and perspectives about his educational journey at Northeastern.
What prompted you to go back school?
Johnny: Since I came in this country, my ultimate dream was to be able to further my education. I attended Theological School in the Congo in preparation for pastoral ministry, but as I came here, it become evident to me that my credentials would not be enough to afford me gainful employment (ministerial or secular), so I decided to explore another field for my graduate studies. As I gained employment in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district in North Carolina, I decided Education would be my major. Northeastern University, which I knew from having lived in Massachusetts, had just opened their new graduate campus in Charlotte, so I applied there. This step was a courageous one from my part because I had to overcome many fears and challenges: Learning in English (my native language being French), becoming a non-traditional student, and studying a whole new field at the graduate level. All this had to be done while I retained my day employment and just became a father (which is a handful in itself).
Why did you choose Northeastern University?
Johnny: The reputation of the school, the convenience of the location and the flexible format of the classes, along with a special scholarship for educators were all major factors that influenced my decision to attend Northeastern. Plus, the format allowed me to retain my current employment, which was critical to me as I started my family.
What did you think of the online courses?
I was, at the beginning, a little skeptical about taking full classes online, but latter on realized that self-paced learning is the most suitable format for a working professional and parent. Also, the materials are already posted for the all week, so when can access wherever, whenever, and as many times as needed.
How do manage your professional, personal and school commitments?
Johnny: Having so many other commitments besides school was a big challenge: Family (with a newborn, work, church). But setting goals and priorities helped me keep things in focus. I told myself that I did not want to spend more time than is necessary to complete my degree. So finishing my classes on time was a priority. For that matter, I never took a break from school, and at times took two full classes in a quarter. I had to explain to others that because of my school commitment, my level of service would be different, but it was temporary.
How would you describe your experience at Northeastern University?
Johnny: One of the greatest of my life. At Northeastern, I have learned for my profession, but most importantly, I have learned for life by becoming a system’s thinker and learning to make connections across fields of studies. I also gained valuable skills in both oral and written expressions as well as the use of technological tools (I learned to use so many of them I did not know about before joining the school).