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Five Students. Five Suitcases. 28,209 Miles. One Destination.

The journey to NKU for international students is exceedingly long, utterly exhausting, and thrilling beyond imagination.

"Fatima picked me up from the bus station and took us to NKU. I got to see my room—the place I will be calling a home. For the entire four years, this is where I want to stay."

By Brent Donaldson & Jayna Barker
NKU Marketing + Communications

If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you may remember the dizzying feeling of stepping out of the airport into an unfamiliar landscape. Up to that point, your journey was guided—through ticket lines and security checkpoints, airport signs and reference markers, or airline staff pointing you in the right direction. But it’s the moment you step into the open air, suitcase in hand, when you feel the exhilaration of new experiences about happen.

Now imagine that feeling amplified a thousandfold. This is how many of Northern Kentucky University’s international students—nearly 500 last year from more than 60 countries—describe the moment when they arrive on campus after journeying from far, far away.

We sat down with five international students—all of whom arrived within the past 48 hours—to talk about their travels here, their expectations, hopes, ambitions, and the one item from home they couldn’t leave behind.


Ganesh Budaththoki

Age: 19
Traveled from: Kathmandu, Nepal

Inside NKU: Tell us about your home.
I born in Nepal, Kathmandu. I was actually born in Sindhuli, then my father took me to the capital and I studied there and was raised there by my father. During that time my mother was staying all the way back in Sindhuli. We had a farm there, and she had to look after it. My father also needed to study, so he took all the children to Kathmandu so that we can get a better education. Five kids including me.

I belong to the Chhetri caste but I was brought up with Newars. They are a different kind of caste and they are in huge numbers in Kathmandu. It was great, though, after [we moved into] our house. It was green, like here, but before that it was really congested. There are so many people there in Kathmandu. It was so hard.

We had an apartment but now we have a house and my mother and we are all living together.

My father is an advocate. It’s a post above a lawyer.

Read more about Ganesh Budaththoki...


Osisalujo Elizabeth Aderola

Age: 19
Traveled from: Lagos, Nigeria

Inside NKU: Tell us about your home.
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. My mom is a businesswoman, and my dad is a sales representative for an electronic company.

I grew up in a kind of rural part of Lagos. Actually not so rural, but kind of in-between. It is very close to a big market. The system is different… some people where I grew up don’t believe in free education. They don’t believe in education for male or female children, so they go to school but most of them drop out and find work.

Read more about Osisalujo...


Nahawa Ada Sesay

Age: 18
Traveled from: Dakar, Senegal

Inside NKU: Tell us about your home.
I was born in Sierra Leone, but I spent the last four years in Senegal. My dad is a conference operator and translator. He’s bilingual. He speaks English and French. My mom is a housewife. In Sierra Leone, I didn’t have much. The internet was really poor. The environment is, like, more of outdoor things. We all go outside and play—it was just awesome. I liked everything out there. Being around people and talking to people and mingling around.

Inside NKU: How was your journey here? How long did it take?
I was in Maryland for a week before coming to campus. My uncle and aunt live there. When I flew from Senegal to Maryland, my flight was at 3 o'clock and arrived around 8. I was just in shock. Not even once had I pictured myself being on a plane coming to America. I was thankful for how far life has brought me. At the same time, I was loving everything. On the plane, I got to watch a movie for the very first time.

Inside NKU: Did you bring any personal items to remind you of home?
I brought my bangles and my waist beads. They have been with me for a long time. 

Inside NKU: What will you be studying at NKU?
I want to study criminal justice. At the same time, I’m not sure about it. I’ve always wanted to do something that has to do with law.

Read more about Nahawa Ada Sesay...


Chinedu Asinugo

Age: 19
Traveled from: Abuja, Nigeria

Inside NKU: Tell us about your home.
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but I was raised in Abuja. Abuja is pretty quiet. It’s the capital—where the senate and president are. We would run around and play tag. We would play cards as a family; we were always together. I played soccer. I still do and would like to play here.

Read more about Chinedu Asinugo...


Fatoumata Coumba Niang

Age: 17
Traveled from: Dakar, Senegal

Inside NKU: Tell us about your home.
I was born in Senegal—Dakar. My dad works for Unicef at Abuja, Nigeria, and is taking care of water sanitization. And my mother is a kinesiologist. She works in Dakar. My neighborhood is calm, a residential area.

Inside: How was your journey here? How long did it take?
When I left [Sengal], I had only one stop in Washington D.C. Only eight hours.

Inside: Did you bring any personal items to remind you of home?
No. Everything is in my head. It’s okay. I was so sad leaving my country. I’ve lived there my whole life. But I am excited, too. I am excited about meeting new people, learning about American culture, and having a new vision of the world.

Inside: How did you hear about NKU?
A recruiter came to our school in the middle of our school year. He mainly talked to my sister’s class as she was in a different program. She was in an American program and I was in the Senegalese one. I wanted to try something new.

Read more about Fatoumata...