Meet Ikenna Okoro, a recent graduate of the University of Miami who majored in biology and minored in chemistry and Spanish, and is an InteRDom Correspondent for 2013 summer programs.
Ikenna is participating in the Graduate and Gap Year Program and will be a research and coordination assistant in a joint internship with Hospital General Plaza de la Salud and the Aprendiendo a Vivir Foundation.
Ikenna is the first InteRDom participant to have received the “Beyond the Book” Scholarship, awarded by his alma mater. The scholarship provides funding for special intensive learning beyond the traditional classroom experience that includes research, fieldwork and internships.
Ikenna grew up in Rowlett, Texas, a suburb outside of Dallas. He is a big music guy who loves to listen and dance to all types of music and is a member of the group Salsa Craze, which brings together salsa enthusiasts for dance classes in the Miami area. He will especially benefit from InteRDom’s get-together featuring merengue dancing lessons this summer.
Q: How did you become interested in the Dominican Republic?
A: I originally became interested in the Dominican Republic by listening to merengue and I said to myself, “I have to go to the DR!” That was my initial passion that started my sophomore year of college.
Q:If you could only use three words to describe yourself, what would they be?
A:The first one would be a sound effect, “Woo!” and then the words interesting and inspiring.
Q: How do you think that these qualities will contribute to helping you adjust to life in the Dominican Republic?
A: Well, hopefully it will lead to a lot of fun and memorable conversations and experiences. I hope to interact and meet a lot of people and learn a lot about the culture.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your family…
A: I have a large family, I am the youngest of six and we are an academic and a health-oriented family. My oldest brother is a doctor, his twin sister is a nurse. My younger sister after her is a nurse practitioner and the brother after her is a physician and the brother after him is a pharmacist.
Q: Why did you want to work in Public Health in the Dominican Republic?
A: My sophomore year of college I started doing public health research at the Miller School of Medicine. We were working with the Cuban population in Miami and it made me think about accessible countries near Miami that I could go to that were probably experiencing similar situations.
Q: What sparked your interest in traveling? You mentioned you’d been to Nigeria before.
A: Seeing other people who’ve traveled is what initially sparked my interest and traveling to Nigeria was part of it too because it was fun and eye opening as far as observing my culture first-hand and wondering what other cool things are out there from different countries.
Q: Why did you decide to participate in the Correspondent Program?
A: I decided to participate in this program because I’ve tried multiple times to start my own blog and they’ve failed or I gave up on them. I definitely have things to talk about now so I wanted this to be a test and to participate and show I have an online voice. I think the Correspondent Program will be good to help me to reflect on what I’m experiencing here and it will definitely improve my writing skills while trying to be a bit funny when I’m writing something.
Q: How do you think the InteRDom program will contribute to your career goals?
A: I think the InteRDom program is definitely going to give me a great perspective to compare to what I’ve already experienced in Miami. I’m still using this experience to gauge career paths and see which areas interest me most and I definitely want to network as much as possible and meet as many people as I can because I want my career to have something to do with Latin America in the future so this is the perfect time to talk to those important people that can help me out later on with the jobs that I want to pursue in the future.
Q: Were you a member of any clubs or student organizations at your university?
A: I was the president of Brothers Overcoming Negativity and Destruction (BOND). It is a support network to uplift and the minority male on the college campus and exposes our group members to different experiences like golfing or cooking classes or different social things they’ve probably not experienced before as well as career development. Also, we do some tutoring and mentoring students and kids in the Miami area.
Q: What is one fun or little-known fact about you?
A: I’ll give you two. One is that I used to rap and still dabble in rap now. I started in 7th grade on through high school, then it fizzled out in college. The second one is I have a coin collection that I’m pretty proud of.
Upon his return to the US, he will serve as an ambassador of the country and the program for other students from the University of Miami who are interested in traveling to the Dominican Republic. Read more about how the Correspondent Program helps students boost their resumes in the areas of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations, here.
You can follow Ikenna’s and other InteRDom Correspondents’ experiences in the Dominican Republic on the InteRDom blog.
The internship program, InteRDom, an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo ( FUNGLODE), is the premier internship, research and academic study program in the Dominican Republic. It offers international students the opportunity to research important topics at the forefront of the United Nations agenda, obtain professional experience by interning with Dominican organizations and businesses related to their fields of study and/or earn academic credits by taking courses and seminars at a local university.