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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Triumph Akpabio: how she found her purpose


“I find it funny how people ask you what you want to major in because I think it’s a trap,” said Triumph Akpabio ‘21, who has been struggling to decide her course of study. “You barely have an idea of what you want to study, and you haven’t taken many classes yet, but people still expect you to have it all figured out.”

Unfortunately, most first-year college students experience the same trouble Akpabio faced, but they stay silent, creating feelings of loneliness and self-doubt.

Akpabio has spoken up about her struggles and has revealed how she found her purpose and developed her voice during this treacherous process.

Born in Nigeria, Akpabio immigrated to America at age nine with her three siblings: Ufak, her oldest brother who currently serves in the United States Airforce, and her two younger siblings, Forever and Wonder. They currently reside in Maryland.

“Honestly, I thought of America as one big state when I came here. Whether it was Maryland or LA, I really didn’t know the difference,” joked Akpabio. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, especially the ones in college.”

Describing herself as ambiverted and hard-working, Akpabio explained her change in personality from high school to college, and how college, though scary at first, gave her the chance to start using her voice.

“In high school, I was very much about trying to do everything by myself and holding everything in. I think once I was able to be honest about what my strengths were, I began to fix areas of myself that needed improvement and started building my voice,” she said.

Akpabio also struggled with her faith after moving to Loyola. She began to question the religion she had always believed in and wondered how to balance practicing her Catholic faith with rigorous college courses.

“You’re trying to navigate this whole new world with people who believe different things, so part of finding my voice was sticking by what I believe in. Even if I wasn’t actually voicing it. I think that’s part of your voice: knowing what you believe, knowing why you believe it, and standing by it,” she said.

During her transition into college, Akpabio also asked herself the daunting question that all first-year students must answer: “What am I going to major in?”

Aside from moving away from home, first-year college students encounter numerous other challenges, like acquiring new friendships and adjusting to the difficult coursework. These problems burdened Akpabio, and she had trouble alleviating their pressure.

Most of her stress stemmed from her lack of enthusiasm about her major, and she wondered what her purpose was.

“College is a huge shock. You move away from your family and your comfort zone. So, in a way, you’re forced to decide for yourself what’s important,” she said.

Akpabio applied to Loyola as a computer science major because she enjoyed her computer graphics class in high school. Since most, if not all, jobs require computer skills, she figured the computer science major would guarantee her a stable, well-funded future.

“I thought, ‘It’s [computer science]. It’s all the same thing,” she explained. “It’s not. I found the class [that I took] extremely difficult, and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all.”

Akpabio spoke to her ALANA [African, Latino, Asian and Native American] Services mentor, Andrea ‘19, who is a computer science major so that she could gain another perspective on her intended course of study from someone with experience. She also discussed her doubts with her Evergreen, Jill Fury ‘20, who encouraged her to speak with her English professor about an English major.

“I spoke to the head of the English department, the head of the Computer Science department, and my English professor—I talked to everyone. I feel like everyone knows that I’m confused now,” she said.

Akpabio also asked CCSJ Service Coordinator, Grace Hymel ’18, for additional guidance during her journey. During their activity planning for Micah House, a permanent housing facility for people who formerly experienced homelessness, Hymel assisted Akpabio in choosing her major by scouting out helpful campus resources and giving her ideas of involvement on campus. Throughout their time together, Hymel witnessed Akpabio become more confident in herself and in her voice.

Hymel said, “In the beginning of the year, Triumph already seemed more mature than other [first year] peers. Her connections with Micah House and Choice, another service site, have fostered an education for Triumph. She puts her passion for social justice and hard work into everything she does.”

During this stressful process, Akpabio found refuge in her English 101 class, where she learned the value of using her voice. Her newfound comfort in and love for this class convinced her to consider English as her major.

“What pulled me in for the English major was my experience with my 101 professor, Dr. Nicholas Miller. The critical and analytical skills we learned from the texts we read, I believe, directly apply to a variety of professions,” she said.

“I don’t think English is worlds away from computer science,” Akpabio said. “You have to be able to decode and write all of that programming and be able to interpret and analyze it. I definitely think that will be beneficial to me in any occupation.”

One specific revelation Akpabio had from speaking to her professors also encouraged her to change her major.

“When I went to [Dr.] Miller’s office hours and we were talking about my papers and everything, I realized that professors are people, too. They want you to succeed. Same with my computer science professor. They understand your first-year experience. I’ve learned that if I don’t understand, why would I sit in class and be confused? Just talk,” she said.

“I’ve definitely become more confident in my voice from my English class,” Akpabio said.

After these experiences, Akpabio declared an intended English major with a computer science minor, hoping that the analytical and interpretive skills in both subjects would help her in the future. Once she solidified her choice of a major, Akpabio wanted to become more active on campus, so she applied for leadership positions in the Evergreen Orientation staff and in the ALANA mentorship program. She is happy to announce that she was selected to be an Evergreen for the 2018-2019 school year.

“These clubs will allow me to engage others using my newfound voice. I also started going to events and talks on campus that I saw on flyers, which also helped me break out of my shell. I started to see the campus in a different light,” she said.

Like most first-year students, Akpabio’s journey to find her purpose and her voice harbored many obstacles and hardships. But, through her talks with her mentors, meetings with her English and computer science professors, and her activity on campus, Akpabio discovered herself.

“I stopped walking around thinking, ‘I’m the only one who feels this way.’ Once you engage with the school, its atmosphere, and its people, you realize that everyone’s in the same boat,” she said.

Akpabio also extended some advice to her fellow first-years and students who come after her: “This is the opportunity, as a first-year student, to establish where you stand. Take it.”

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Triumph Akpabio: how she found her purpose