why Joy Chukwu-Osazuwa is one of CBC’s Black Changemakers
When Joy Chukwu-Osazuwa immigrated to Canada in 2018 to begin a fully-funded PhD in marine biology at Memorial University in St. John’s, it all felt like a struggle, she says.
She was almost five months pregnant with her third child, in a new city and country where she knew no one and was without her husband and two other children aged one and two who were at home in Nigeria.
Chukwu-Osazuwa, 34, said she’s trying to adjust, find a place to live and settle in without a car while experiencing a Canadian winter for the first time.
“Just the normal person moving all the way here from my country is not even easy,” she said.
After the birth of her baby, Chukwu-Osazuwa immediately went back to school.
‘PhD research is thorough work, it’s rigorous. It’s not easy,’ she said. “It was tough, very tough.”
Chukwu-Osazuwa says she just took things one day at a time and eventually the struggle got easier.
Now she uses her experience as a newcomer to help other international students and immigrants adjust to Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada while helping others achieve their study abroad dreams.
“Education changed my life,” she says.
“I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had the opportunity to come here to study.”
Chukwu-Osazuwa studied fisheries and aquaculture in Nigeria and her doctoral thesis is investigating pathogens affecting fish in North America.
She is currently working on lumpfish to combat diseases affecting the aquaculture industry.
“I’m trying to create a universal vaccine that covers all common pathogens in this industry,” she said.
She says it’s the first time something like this has been done and there isn’t much data already available to guide her work.
“My work is very novel,” she said, adding that she hopes other fisheries researchers can build on what she’s done to create a better vaccine.
Meanwhile, Chukwu-Osazuwa is also the director of strategy, growth and marketing at Skyned Consults, a black-owned educational technology company that helps students, mostly from Africa and some Asian countries, get into universities in Canada, the United States and Britain .
The company uses an artificial intelligence-based platform that takes a student’s profile and matches it to the schools and programs they can apply to, saving time and helping people find the right match.
“We have, and have worked with, a team of regulated Canadian immigration advisors and immigration attorneys who help students with their visa application and make sure they do it right,” Chukwu-Osazuwa said.
Many people outside of North America are unaware of the education and scholarship opportunities in Canada and the United States, she said, and African students are sometimes scammed when dealing with the wrong education and immigration advisors.
Chukwu-Osazuwa said she tries to ensure students have the smooth transition she didn’t have when she came to Canada five years ago.
“All the issues that I’ve been through with the accommodation and all that, I’m trying, I’m trying to make sure they don’t go through that,” she said.
“Canada wants to recruit people with the skills and experience to build the country’s economy,” she said, adding that the company acts as a bridge between prospective students and schools. “It’s a win-win for the person who comes in and also for the country you come in,” she said.
Last year, she said, the company helped about 120 international students attend schools in Canada.
social media star
Chukwu-Osazuwa is not only a mother of three young children, a graduate student and working for an education technology company, but she has also amassed a large following on social media with advice for international students and newcomers alike.
On YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, she covers immigrant topics including applying for a scholarship, accessing health insurance and using a credit card.
Many people in Nigeria, for example, only use debit cards, not credit cards, she said.
“So unless you’ve traveled from my country, you don’t know that you should make a habit of … building up your credit history and making sure you’re accountable for it,” she said.
Chukwu-Osazuwa says it’s about sharing meaningful and useful information with people.
“I’m trying to simplify the whole immigration process, studying abroad, trying to break it down into understandable parts.”
Chukwu-Osazuwa’s online videos and online advice caught Chinwe Ihejirika’s attention.
The two never met in person, but Ihejirika calls Chukwu-Osazuwa a “virtual acquaintance,” which encouraged her to study in Canada.
“When I was planning to emigrate to Canada, she was instrumental in that,” Ihejirika said.
“She gave me many free resources and lots of useful information that helped me actually achieve what I wanted to do.”
Ihejirika, also from Nigeria, has a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Exeter in the UK and came to Canada to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management from York University in Toronto.
She said people pay immigration consultants up to $300 an hour to access the kind of information Chukwu-Osazuwa puts online for free.
That’s why Ihejirika says she nominated Chukwu-Osazuwa as one of CBC’s Black Changemakers for Atlantic Canada — because she deserves to be commended for all her efforts.
“Education, as the saying goes, opens many possibilities,” Ihejirika said.
Chukwu-Osazuwa said she’s excited to be named changemaker, although she doesn’t feel like she’s making big changes. But, she said, she must be doing something right.
“Because when you’re doing something, you don’t know that people are watching you, and people really appreciate the little work you’re doing,” Chukwu-Osazuwa said.
Chukwu-Osazuwa hopes her education and doctoral studies will open doors for her in this province once she submits her doctorate and degree later this year.
“That’s what my whole life has been about, fishing, aquaculture and I really want to get into the sector and be able to make my own contribution.”
She said she dreams of working for the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and staying in that province with her family, although she sees many international students eventually leave the province to work after they graduate.
“I really hope that wouldn’t be our story.”
In the meantime, she said, she plans to continue helping newcomers and even wants to become an immigration consultant to help others reach for the sky.
For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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