More than a degree: Robinson's story

Photo of Robinson holding a weight in his hand.

Robinson Aigbokhan, a senior from Nigeria, learned to build both physical and spiritual muscles at Union College.

In Robinson Aigbokhan's home country of Nigeria, an American education means access to better and higher paying jobs. But the international reputation of America's universities has a dark side too: parties, binge drinking and hookups. As a devout Catholic, Aigbokhan wanted to attend a school where spiritual influences would be stronger than the party scene. At Union College, he got more than he bargained for. “I didn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventists,” he chuckled. “I thought ‘SDA’ was an accrediting agency.” 

Aigbokhan's father wanted him to become a physician, so he settled on Union because of the school’s high medical school acceptance rates for pre-med students and its Christian values. However, his father nearly took him home after finding out Adventists worship on Saturday, but relented because he’d already paid for the school year.

Change of heart

“That first year I decided to keep an open mind,” Aigbokhan remembered. “I had lots of doubts about my faith and was really struggling to understand Revelation. I had been praying about it, not knowing God was bringing me to Union to reveal the answers.”

Aigbokhan attended a Revelation seminar. As he studied, mysteries in the Bible became clearer. He decided to join the Adventist church despite fearing his family’s reaction. To his surprise, though disappointed, they accepted his decision.

Change of mind

Even while he experienced a spiritual transformation, his academic life was in turmoil. “I love it here,” he said of Lincoln and of Union, but he didn’t love his major. “My dad wanted me to be a doctor, but I decided it wasn’t right for me.”

He enjoyed learning how the body works, so he followed a newfound love of exercise training and switched to an exercise science degree with a plan to continue to physical therapy school.

“I enjoy personal training,” he explained. “When I train and work out, I study how the body works.” What started with his own love of exercise and fitness soon transformed to helping others live healthier lives. Many of his friends asked for help, and he began designing nutrition and exercise programs, drawing from his experience and coursework. 

Besides the technical knowledge needed for personal fitness training, Aigbokhan feels one of the most important skills he has learned while at Union is the ability to work with people. “As a trainer and physical therapist, you have to be able to relate to people,” he said. “I have learned how to approach people and make them feel comfortable.”

Aigbokhan recently started an internship as a personal trainer at a Snap Fitness location owned by a couple physical therapists. “I’m expecting to learn a lot,” he said. “Someday I hope to own my own gym or physical therapy center, just like they do.”

Plans for the future

After finishing physical therapy school, Aigbokhan plans to help his countrymen learn to be more physically fit. “People in my country are more concerned with looking good through material possessions, not so much by being healthy,” he said. Because of the low demand for trainers and physical therapists in Nigeria, he hopes to establish himself here in the U.S. and eventually partner with other medical professionals to build a clinic in his home country.

But wherever his career takes him, he will be thankful for the faith he gained while at Union. “I came here to school not looking for anything but to get my degree and get out,” he said. “It ended up being a lot more—it changed my life.”

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