Student Spotlight: Juliet Nwagwu Ume-Ezeoke (College '21)

May 26, 2021

Juliet Nwagwu Ume-Ezeoke

College 2021, Mather House, Major: Mechanical Engineering

Photo of Juliet sitting outside Widener Library in Harvard Yard
Juliet worked as a Mechanical Engineering intern with Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited (SSGL), a subsidiary of the Jospong Group of Companies during the summer of 2019 as well as interned with CAS as an Events Intern during her freshman and sophomore year.

  • What was your fondest memory of your internship with CAS?

My two fondest memories are of driving to Wli Falls and hanging out by the waterfall with the other interns, and going to Ada Foah, a small island about 40 minutes from Accra. My experience at Wli Falls was memorable because we took a 4-hour drive to the northern part of Ghana which was amazing because I got to see other parts of the country, and even a funeral celebration that was happening in one town we drove through. In addition to the other CAS interns, one of my fellow interns at SSGL joined us for the trip, so it was wonderful to spend time with her and get to know her better. I enjoyed going to Ada Foah because it was really beautiful and was able to get outside the large city of Accra and explore more of Ghana! I went to Ada Foah to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday and met new people who also went on the trip. We took a short trip to Tema (east of Accra), and then took a boat ride to the island of Ada Foah. The island itself is between the Volta River and the Atlantic Ocean, where we were able to explore and see where the two river bodies merged.

  • Were there any challenges from this experience and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was defining the project that I worked on that summer with the team at SSGL. As I shadowed the mechanical engineers on site, one recurrent issue was the lack of information about what machinery had failed and what specifically was the issue. We therefore had to spend significant time diagnosing what the issue was, or waiting for the person who had noticed the failure to come to the site. One of the engineers suggested some sort of app for tracking the failures. We spent some more time working out the details and came up with the idea for an app that could receive service requests that allow engineers to update the status of requests, then store the information in a database. The data collection aspect was important as it would help the company understand if there were any patterns in machine failures, and pre-order parts/services as needed. I worked closely with the mechanical engineers to get their input often while I brainstormed possible app features. This helped me understand the issues better and the needs of the mechanical engineers in real time.

  • What was something surprising that you learned during your experience?

I learned a lot about Ghana’s culture during my time there. I learned how to speak a little bit of Twi (emphasis on little), but am pleasantly surprised that I am still in touch with many of the people I met in Accra that summer. I learned Twi mostly from the other interns who would teach me to say simple phrases like "hello" or "good-bye" or "I would like..." I also learned about how people are named after the days they are born in certain ethnic groups (I was told mine would be Abena since I was born on a Tuesday). I only spoke Twi to greet people andwould definitely like to expand my vocabulary when I go back to Accra this summer as a fellow with Adjaye Associates, an architectural and design firm.

  • Did this experience change your perspective on anything and if so, how?

This experience really reinforced my career interests in working on infrastructure and urbanism, especially in rapidly growing cities (Accra for example). This experience has also played a pivotal role in my decision to take a fellowship this summer with Adjaye Associates in Accra. They are an architecture firm led by Sir David Adjaye that has completed numerous interesting projects, including the National Museum of African American History in DC. I feel great about spending another summer in Accra because I have spent some time there before and know my way around.

  • What do you plan to do after you graduate? And if any impact at all, how has your experience with CAS impacted what you plan to do next?

I plan to get my Master's degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University. My experiences with CAS definitely allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of opportunities related to infrastructure in Africa and cemented my interest in studying the built environment.

  • Do you have any college tips for the incoming first year class?

I would definitely recommend doing at least one internship on the continent if possible! There are so many beautiful places to see and wonderful people to meet.

Photo of Juliet and her colleagues during her Jospong Internship in Accra, Ghana in the Summer of 2019
Photo of Juliet and her colleagues during her Jospong Internship in Accra, Ghana in the Summer of 2019