One student’s journey to Whitewater and back again


Chibu Chioma, a Junior at UW-Whitewater

Taylor Jacque, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

It is no secret that graduating from college is an endurance challenge, a marathon if you will. Many people not familiar with running a marathon may be under the assumption that you simply run a marathon from start to finish, or that walking or taking breaks is associated with weakness. However, this is not the case. According to and , “taking walking breaks is a highly effective strategy…most marathon runners do not run the whole time during a marathon.”, in fact, “It seems counterintuitive, but incorporating them into your strategy can give you a faster finish.” 

After the effects of Covid-19 forced students to go remote in 2020, with online-learning becoming the norm, many students considered withdrawing for at least a semester. According to Gallup and Lumina Foundation, “over one-third of current students had difficulty remaining enrolled in fall 2021.”  

Chibu Chioma, a Junior at UW-Whitewater, took a break from school during Covid, but is now back for the 23’ Spring Semester. While Chioma faced a variety of obstacles on his journey back to UW-Whitewater, returns with a clear sense of self and determination thanks to many of those obstacles. The Royal Purple sat down with Chioma, to hear how his journey to UW-Whitewater and back again has shaped the student and person he is. 

Can you give us a little background about yourself and why you decided to come to UW-Whitewater?

Chioma: “I grew up in Brookfield, Wisconsin, but I’m Nigerian, both my parents are from Nigeria. I’ve always had a passion for business. My dad is a financial analyst and has worked in the government, and I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Whitewater has a great business school, it’s close to home, and is affordable. I also looked at what the Black community was like here, it was important to me that I felt like there was community here.” 

 What was your college experience like when you got to UW-Whitewater?

 Chioma: “My parents are very adamant about how serious school is. They sat me down and really ingrained the importance and seriousness of going to school. So, when I first got here, there was a lot of pressure, and I was like, let me get straight into this school stuff, let’s go. I wasn’t really focused as much on making friends as I was about studying, but eventually I started to make my way around campus and got to know a lot of people. Then I really had to learn how to balance the social life with staying focused on school, and it wasn’t easy.”

It sounds like school was going okay, you eventually found a community, when did things change, or what changed that led you to take a break?

Chioma: “Well… Covid… Covid was in the second semester of my freshman year and it was during that time that I felt myself falling off the rails. When we first got sent home, no one really thought it was serious, but when we didn’t go back and had to finish the semester online, it didn’t seem real. No one really seemed like they knew what was going on. Trying to focus on school with everything going on, school just didn’t seem real. I just felt lost. That’s when all the problems with online cheating happened, and I just got the impression that school was a joke. 

“Even when we were back on campus, and everything was online, things still didn’t feel real, there are things you get from being in a classroom that you just can’t get doing everything online. Covid made it really hard to take school seriously. I started to have doubts, started questioning what I was doing, and it was at that time I thought I might need a break. My mind was not focused… Do I really want to go into this field? Will I be happy and content with my life? I didn’t have an answer for that.” 

What was life like when you were away from school? What made you decide to come back?

Chioma: “There were a lot of things about taking a break from school I didn’t know, and I sort of found myself in a financial situation. I always thought I would go back, but I had to work a lot to actually be able to financially be able to come back. My parents were always pushing me though, “you got to go back to school”. So, I was working to try to save up money as a delivery driver, and driving through campus, seeing everyone with their backpacks going to school and having fun, I felt like I was missing out. This was the time where I had some time to reflect on what I really wanted, and a lot of my true friends came out and supported me to discover what I wanted my path to be. It took a while, but I figured out what I wanted to get into.”

Sounds like, taking ownership over deciding what you wanted out of school and for a career was important in recommitting to school?

Chioma: “Yea, absolutely, I feel like I am a totally different person now, I understand the route I want to take and what I am willing to do to accomplish my goals. I’m a more engaged student, asking questions, getting my homework done early even. The break made me realize what’s important, it made me find myself, really just got me on track, what I envisioned in my brain, down on paper, and what it took to accomplish that.”

 In reflecting on your whole journey to Whitewater and back again, how do you look at taking a break, the student you were and the student you are now?

Chioma: After Covid, of my original group of 15 friends, there are only three still in school now, and taking a break was hard. I felt depressed and lost, but in a lot of ways I’m glad I had to go through the whole experience, because it actually made me realize what I want to do, why I was at school, and what I was willing to do to actually commit to it, for myself.