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A-Level: From Mauritius, senior finds her niche at Creighton

Nidaa MunglooGrowing up on Mauritius and in the island nation’s British educational system, with its main subjects and tracks, level examinations, laureate system and seemingly endless weeks and months of studying over seven years of secondary education, Nidaa Mungloo never gave much thought to pursuing an American education.

So when she thought about the prospect of attending a university in the United States and adding yet another layer on her already demanding study schedule, the Creighton University senior majoring in computer science and graphic design understandably hesitated.

“I’m thinking, ‘After everything I had going on with A-level examination [an advanced examination for secondary students in the British education system] preparations, was I really going to put the time and effort into the long process of studying for and taking the SATs?’” Mungloo recalled. “Then, right after my A-levels were done, was I going to be applying for U.S. colleges and taking the SAT II, while my friends are relaxing, having taken their A-levels in December?”

But early in 2013, just as she was looking toward a future as a lawyer and pursuing an education in England or Australia, Mungloo found herself walking the rows of a college fair. Some representatives from the American Embassy in Mauritius were handing out chocolates, breaking the ice with young Mauritians who might be interested in studying in the U.S.

The next thing Mungloo knew, she and a friend from Queen Elizabeth College (QEC), her secondary school, were signed up to attend a general informational session about the merits of an American education.

“It’s funny to think that it all came down to chocolates, but that’s what brought us over to them,” Mungloo said. “There wasn’t a lot of active recruitment of students from Mauritius by the United States. But as my friend and I got to thinking about it, we noticed that when students go to the U.S., they’re challenged. They’re more independent. That intrigued me, so I said, ‘Let’s go.’”

Mungloo learned about the various trappings of the U.S. system, including those SATs, which she took twice in the summer of 2013, improving her score with the second go-round and also noticing something more tangible.

“The British system is so exclusive,” she said. “You work and work and work and there’s always someone better than you. When I took the SAT, I felt it was the first time in was really being tested on my aptitudes. The British system is memory-based, all about who can remember the most and the best. What I saw in the American system was that there was more emphasis on analytical skills and logic. That’s where I am — I like to piece things together, to puzzle over them. Studying for the SAT it felt, for the first time, that I was having fun studying for an exam.”

Mungloo also began the process of researching American colleges online. If she was going to study in America, she preferred a small, liberal arts college or university. One day, Creighton popped up in her search and she added it to her list of schools to which she was applying.

“I’d heard of the Jesuits from French literature,” she said. “So I did the essay, sent in the application. Didn’t think too much more of it.”

In the meantime, Mungloo found she’d been accepted to the University of Kent in England, a school known for its law program and a place where she knew she’d be encountering Mauritians. All things pointed to Kent when, in February 2014, following completion of her studies at QEC, a package arrived at her home — an acceptance letter from Creighton, complete with a scholarship and a T-shirt. The parcel piqued Mungloo’s interest but when she did a little more research on Creighton and Omaha, she wasn’t sure if it was her kind of place.

“It looked cold,” she said. “And my favorite thing to do is be on a beach. I’d be the only Mauritian in Omaha, more than likely, and maybe the only one in Nebraska.” Mungloo decided to stay on the path to Kent. But she started hearing from other camps. “Friends of my parents thought I was crazy not to go to the U.S.,” she said. “‘Get an American degree,’ they said. Then a lot of people started telling me that. It has more value around the world. I started thinking about that. If I went to Kent, I’d be in my comfort zone, around Mauritians. If I came to Creighton, it would be a leap of faith.”

At the same time, Mungloo learned she was the recipient of a prestigious international scholarship from Kent. And, as a Muslim, Mungloo had further questions about access to halal markets and other religious provisions in Omaha.

All this was assuaged in her conversations with Creighton’s advisers to international students, who also told her that her success on her A-level exams could count toward some college credit.

“So in the end, I decided to stick with Creighton,” she said. “And I’m glad I did.”

Though she experienced some initial culture shock upon arriving on campus and a tendency to retreat into her natural introversion, it didn’t take Mungloo long to start finding ways to get involved.

She has worked in the Lieben Center for Women, taken part in the Jesuit Student Leadership Conference, gone on a Schlegel Center for Service and Justice service trip, was the opinion editor for The Creightonian and contributed to Shadows literary magazine. She is also active with both the Muslim Students Association and the International Students Association, helping to establish Creighton’s Ambassadors program for international students as part of the Creighton Global Initiative.

Presently, Mungloo is an intern in the RaD Lab in the Division of Information Technology where she is pioneering an artificial intelligence application, Iggy, and trying to make interactions with Iggy seem more human.

She’s done all this while carrying a typical 18-credit-hour course load that, along with her credit from QEC, will allow her to graduate in May after just three years at Creighton.

“Jesuit education ties into all of that,” she said. “It stresses that what you learn, you carry out into the wider world. Getting involved on campus has helped me make ties in the community and I’ve enjoyed being able to give back. I look for opportunities to share the values of Creighton wherever and whenever I can. Creighton has definitely prepared me and stoked my passions, everything from women’s issues to helping international students. I don’t think that would have been possible at another university.”

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