Born in Bulgaria and raised in Iowa, Sofia Iwobi is a 2010 graduate of the University of Vermont. There, she majored in recreational management, was a member of the women’s basketball team and worked for the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department. She is Graphic Designer and Print Production Assistant at Kershner Signs and owner of Iwobi Design, a web and graphic design company.
My mother is Bulgarian and my father is Nigerian. I was born in Bulgaria, in the capital, Sofia. My mother came to the States after communism ended and I lived with my grandmother for three years. I came in ’95. [My mother and I] lived in Iowa, in a town of 10,000. It was very Caucasian. There was a small university there that brought in exchange students from around the world, but it’s the Midwest. In Bulgaria, I was the only dark-skinned child there. In Iowa there were one or two others and people thought that we were siblings.
One spring break we went out to Colorado to snowboard and I really liked it. I actually wanted to go to Colorado for school, but the University of Denver is too small and the University of Colorado is too big. Someone in my hometown told me to look at Vermont. I came out here on my recruiting trip and I liked it. I liked the people that I met and I liked that there were recreationally a lot of options. There’s a lot going on.
In the Midwest and Iowa there aren’t many trees and there isn’t much to do. My friends and I growing up, we would play in Walmart. What Burlington has to offer is the focal point of the downtown and that everything is so easily accessible. You don’t have to drive a lot of miles to go for a bike ride or to go swimming or to go for a hike.
Out west a lot of people say Portland [Oregon] is like Burlington. Portland is pretty, with friendly people, but the waterfront is not developed the way it is here and the appeal to the tourists just is not developed the way it is here.
I loved [UVM]. During one of my first recruiting trips in Iowa, the coach told me, ‘When you choose a school, make sure that if you got injured, you’d still be happy there.’ The other schools I looked at were nice, but I wouldn’t have been happy if I got injured. And when I came to Vermont, I realized I would’ve actually been happier if I got injured. I love the people, I love the experiences. There’s always something new.
UVM has ALANA (African, Latino(a), Asian and Native American). My freshman year I hung out with Caucasian kids, my second year I hung out with international kids and then by my third year, for the first time in my life the majority of my friends were dark-skinned. UVM has something to offer for everyone. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of community support. Going from Bulgaria to Iowa, I’ve had the community help me out. I went to a private school, and the community helped my mother pay for it. Here, I had an academic advisor and professor who is a big basketball fan. My four years, I’d spend Christmas day there, or Thanksgiving. Now, having graduated, I still go over there just to spend time.
I majored in recreational management and specialized in the public sector. I actually happened to be able to work in the field after I graduated; I work for Burlington Parks and Recreation.
I love the people I work with there. I’m finishing up a project and once that’s done, I’m done there. I’ve been doing a lot of side projects in graphic design. I’m thinking of doing freelancing and setting up my own business. I’ll miss the people [at Parks and Recreation]. I’ve never met so many people that will bend over backwards to help you out. We’re all there with the common mission of helping out the community, and it’s just great to see that.
I like Vermont and I love Burlington. [Whether or not I stay here] is not based on race, it’s based on age group. After [the students] graduate, they leave. It’s hard finding a job but the jobs do exist here. I’ve traveled the east coast, the west coast and the mid-west.
There’s no place like Burlington.