From Prehealth to a Communication Major

How Chinenye Onyeike found her true passion at NYU

Chinenye Onyeike posing in a dance position

When deciding which college to attend, Chinenye Onyeike (‘21) focused on two main things: location and accessibility. For Onyeike, NYU ticked all the boxes. “I was attracted to NYU because there’s no campus,” she says. “There aren’t any walls that separate students from the real world. You get a bigger glimpse at real world experiences than students at other schools. Being here at NYU, it really pushed me beyond limits I didn’t even know I had.”

Chinenye Onyeike seated on a bridge

Exploring Pre-Health and Finding Her Truth

During her first semester at NYU, Onyeike never imagined she would be a Media, Culture, and Communication major. Instead, she enrolled in general chemistry and calculus courses to satisfy prerequisites for the prehealth track. Many of her relatives work in the medical field, so she decided to follow in their footsteps as a Psychology major. But halfway through her first semester, Onyeike began doubting her decision.

“In the back of my head I always knew that I didn’t want to be a doctor. My parents wanted me to be on a career path that was safe and secure, but I started thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’ And if I was having doubts during general chemistry and calculus, then how was I going to get through medical school and then residency and then being a doctor? I didn’t mind the hard work. But if I didn’t want it, then what was the point of putting in all that effort?”

 

Finding Communications and Transferring to NYU Steinhardt

After learning more about the Media, Culture, and Communication major from her friends, Onyeike applied for an internal transfer to the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. “The things they were saying aligned so much more with my personality and interests,” she says. Since then, she has never looked back.

“The shift in my college experience was night and day,” she says. “I wasn’t stressing over tests. I got to work on assignments that aligned more closely with my interests and to be creative and expressive with my projects. And I actually enjoyed my classes.”

The class that impacted her the most? Professor Deborah Borisoff’s course on gender and communication, which introduced her to literature that focused on the media representation of Black women. “We had tons and tons of readings that were so interesting,” says Onyeike. “The ones that stuck out to me the most were based on Black women and how we’re treated in the media industry. They talked about how we have to wear our hair a certain way to be seen as professional—how we’re sometimes discriminated against by the way our bodies look or the way we dress. Every day I just learned more and more.”

"It’s a place where we create the narrative. We create the perspective. We create the rules."

Chinenye Onyeike and other on a stage during an event called

Finding Her Voice as a Podcaster

The class readings inspired Onyeike so deeply that she decided to focus her final paper on the experiences of Black women. They even kickstarted her journey as a podcaster. After the Black Lives Matter movements during quarantine and after news stories broke about Black women going missing or nearly dying in child birth, Onyeike wanted to create a platform where she could talk about these issues with other Black women. So in July 2020, Onyeike debuted her first episode of The Court, where she talked about the unfair treatment of Black women in society.

“I call my podcast The Court, like a basketball court, because it’s a place where Black women have the home court advantage,” says Onyeike. “Our opinions and our voices are often silenced or misheard or misconstrued or belittled. I wanted us to have the agency to tell our own stories from our own perspective. It’s a place where we create the narrative. We create the perspective. We create the rules.”

Combined with her academic experiences, extracurricular activities, and professional internship at NBC New York, Onyeike’s podcast has given her the experience to thrive in the journalism field. Who would’ve thought she began her academic journey as a Psychology major on the prehealth track?

“If I didn’t come to NYU, who knows if I would’ve felt comfortable switching my major,” says Onyeike. “NYU has taught me the importance of advocating for myself and really believing in what I’m capable of doing.”