As Illinois State senior Ikechukwu (IK) Ude prepares to move his mortarboard tassel from right to left this spring, he took a moment to look back at his time at Illinois State University and reflect on some memorable experiences he will take with him after graduation.

The Lynwood native has always wanted to help people and came into Illinois State as a biology major intending to go to medical school to become a pediatrician. However, like many college students, Ude’s plans changed along the way, and he is now set to graduate this spring with a degree in psychology and a biology minor. He has been accepted into the accelerated B.S.N. program in the Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN). That 15-month program will begin in May. Ude was originally drawn to Illinois State because of the University’s science programs.

“I always have liked helping people and being there for people,” said Ude. “My mom is actually a nurse, so she’s probably the one who inspired me the most. She has eight other siblings, and three of them are nurses, and I’m Nigerian, so two of them are nurses in Nigeria, one works in Atlanta, and my mom works in Chicago.”

After the nursing program, Ude plans to take a break to travel, and eventually become a travel nurse before he returns to school to become a nurse anesthetist.

“I’m thinking of doing the travel nursing route because I’ve always wanted to travel around the country,” said Ude. “You get an assignment, and they pretty much pay for everything like lodging, and you get experience working in different settings, rural or urban.”

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changed the college experience for Ude just like it did for all students, but he saw a silver lining.

“You are like, ‘Whoa, why me?’ This is what you’ve been waiting for, and then everything is online, there’s no campus life, and you’re just in your room and looking at your classmates on a screen. It can feel like you’re going through it all alone,” said Ude. “At the same time, I kept my routine and it helped make me more organized.”

Ude said he was blessed to receive the Olamide Adeyooye Scholarship. He discovered the scholarship on the Illinois State scholarship finder website, and he decided to apply based on the meaningful story behind the award about a life lost too soon.

Ude was very involved on campus as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and as the vice president of the African Students Association. Ude also worked for the Dean of Students Office as part of the Welcome Week student crew the past few years.

“We put on the events for incoming freshmen, and it was a nice way to get everybody acquainted with each other before the school year starts,” said Ude. “I liked being a person who got to make a first impression on new students.”

Ude’s favorite memory from his Illinois State journey was moving into Watterson Towers during his freshman year. From then until now, he has seen himself grow in many ways.

“You don’t have that ‘high school kid’ mentality anymore,” said Ude. “You learn how to prioritize more, you learn what the right crowd is for you, time management, and ultimately how to be successful in the real world.”

Ude had this advice for current and incoming Redbirds: “It’s OK to make mistakes. Live your college life to the fullest, take as many opportunities as you can, join RSOs, go meet new people. Even if you think you can’t handle it at the time, at least you tried it.”

This story is part of a series of profiles on Redbirds who are graduating this May. For more information about how Illinois State is celebrating commencement this semester, visit Graduation Services website.