037: The International Student Experience – W/ Dr. Enoh & Dr. Yakubu

This week’s episode is dedicated to all international students and any African who has hopes to migrate to the US (and the diaspora as a whole) for studies. We have two very knowledgeable guests Dr. Sheila Enoh, MD MPH and Dr. Idris Yakubu, PharmD who both started off as international students in the US. They share their experiences from applying to college, going to the US embassy for their F1 visa interview, migrating to the US, as well as valuable lessons they learned in college. If you or anybody you know plans on migrating to the US but doesn’t know where to start, then this episode is for you! We hope that this episode is very resourceful to you and your loved ones. As former international students, these are definitely things that we wish we knew prior to migrating to the US and we hope that these experiences can help someone in the pursuit of their dreams in the US. 

Meet Our Guests

Dr. SHEILA ENOH, MD MPH was born and raised in Yaounde, Cameroon. She moved to the US at the age of 18 to attend college as an international student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her undergraduate studies. She majored in Biology and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry. She then completed a Masters of Science in Public Health with a focus on International Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and currently pursuing a residency in Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is passionate about all things medicine and global health.


Website: www.sheilaenohmd.com

Email: info@sheilaenohmd.com

IDRIS YAKUBU, PHARMD is a Solid Organ Transplant Pharmacist Specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. He earned both his Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees from the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He completed a PGY-1 pharmacy practice residency at the University of Toledo Medical Center and a PGY-2 solid organ transplant pharmacy residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Yakubu was born and raised in Nigeria and is passionate about assisting international students in navigating and overcoming barriers in the United States educational system. 

Things you will learn in this episode:

[00:01 – 04:42] Introduction

  • Introducing the guests

[04:42 – 21:32] The F1 Visa & College Application Process

  • Dr. Enoh, Dr. Yakubu and Host, Anyoh share their stories
  • Highlighting the importance of mentorship 
  • Dealing with visa rejection 
  • Advice on how to successfully get an F1 visa

[21:32 – 35:40] Coming to America 

  • Dr. Enoh, Dr. Yakubu and Host, Anyoh share their experiences
  • Host, Anyoh shares her story of getting lost at the airport
  • Experiencing the American educational system

[35:40 – 54:35] Culture Shock 

  • The guests and Anyoh share their culture shock experiences
  • The importance of networking & having positive friends
  • The importance of being an all-around person 
  • The importance of taking opportunities & taking up leadership roles
  • How to deal with being homesick
  • Networking with other Africans
  • Dr. Yakubu talks about getting to know the system

[54:35 – 1:09:26] The Expenses of Studying in America

  • Dr. Enoh, Dr. Yakubu and Host, Anyoh share their experiences
  • The pressure to succeed that international students feel because of the humongous tuition expenses
  • Taking up opportunities and working to manage expenses
  • Getting a scholarship and taking advantage of your networks

[1:09:36 – 1:23:04] Dealing With Negative People & Challenges

  • Avoiding the noise and negativity
  • Dr. Enoh talks about resilience
  • Having a good support system is important
  • Being careful of what advice you take

[1:23:04 – 1:35:28] Lessons of Survival & Independence

  • Lessons learned from being an international student
  • The importance of getting mentors and sponsors
  • Having the support from family
  • Qualities you need to be successful as an international student in the US

[1:35:28 – 1:35:28] Projects & Final Words

  • Guests shared their personal projects
  • Dr. Yakubu and Dr. Enoh give their final words of advice to prospective international students
  • Host, Anyoh shares words of advice and action steps

Tweetable Quotes:

“To me, the top 3 things that are very important when coming to the US as an international student:

  1. Prove that you have strong ties to your country by convincing them that you are going to return
  2. Show them that you can cover your [school and living] expenses throughout your stay in the US
  3. Know what you want to do/study – your immediate, midterm and long term goals.” – Anyoh Fombad

“One thing that I had to learn coming here in addition to networking was doing extracurricular activities. You can study all you want – that’s great, but if you want to go to amazing places you will have to join organizations and have leadership opportunities so that they can see that you are an all-rounded student.” – Dr. Sheila Enoh 

“Going to school abroad [the US] is not just for academics. You really should take advantage of the experience… be open-minded, take advantage of the campus activities, build networks with people from different countries as an international student, and be very intentional about building relationships with the Americans as well. Learn about the system because that is what will really allow you to thrive” – Dr. Idris Yakubu

“Being an international student has pushed me beyond my limits. It has allowed me to mature quicker; I have had to put myself in very uncomfortable situations not knowing what to expect but just having faith and trusting that whatever it is, there is something in it for me to learn.” – Dr. Idris Yakubu

“In order to be successful, you have to work really hard. You have to be ready to fail and get back up. You have to be really humble. You have to be open-minded. It is ok if you come to the US and you are like “hey I want to do this”, but it is ok if you realize that this is not your passion and you change your mind, as long as it is truly something you want to do.” – Dr. Sheila Enoh

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