California hosts more international students than any other state. Many are among the best and brightest of their home countries, and they come bearing their parents' high expectations. We profile Ajarat Bada, a Nigerian student who was going to be a doctor -- until she caught the bug for a different kind of leadership role.
HOST: America's millennials are ready to change the world. And when young people come from abroad to study in the U.S., they're liable to catch the civic spirit. California hosts more international students than any other state. For our series 20 Something Megan Sweas profiles a Nigerian student who has already been tapped for global leadership.
SWEAS: The sun has yet to rise over her beige suburban house an hour east of Los Angeles. But Ajarat Bada is up, Quran in her lap, practicing her Arabic.
BADA: Basically it's a verse [where] ...you're seeking protection from God from I guess the mischief and evil things and the bad things that happen and are going around.
SWEAS: Trust in God comes naturally to the 27-year-old Muslim. When she first came to the United States in 2002, her life was set out for her.
BADA: I was really going to be a doctor and go back home, you know.
SWEAS: But, she says God had different plans. One day she stumbled upon a Facebook posting. It was about One Young World, an international summit of leaders in their twenties.
BADA: The idea was to bring together all these fabulous young people who had all these great ideas and finding solutions to kind of the problems in the world. There was going to be Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, all these fascinating people were going to be there.
SWEAS: She applied, and in February 2010, Ajarat found herself in London with nearly 1,000 young leaders from around the globe.
YOUNG WORLD VIDEO: And now for the very first time we're going to recite the declaration One World. One People. Future. Our Destiny. To make the world a better place for each other.
BADA: One of the discussions was what are we going to do now that we feel all empowered. You go to a room, I don't know if you've ever felt it but a room where like everybody is just as passionate about changing the world as you are. I literally couldn't sleep when I got home.
SWEAS: In her sleepless nights, she had a realization: Interfaith dialogue was a central theme at One Young World, but not in the United Nations. She spoke at the summit about public health issues, but now she saw how religious conflict diverts resources from problems like maternal health and hunger.
SOUND BITE OF COMMERCIAL: People are actually dying, dying, dying in the name of religion.
SWEAS: She promoted her campaign at the second One Young World summit last fall in a speech that's now an online commercial.
SOUND BITE OF COMMERCIAL: We're asking for an end to violence in the name of religion. At this time we're working on a platform to bring together the most influential representatives from the fields of business...
SWEAS: Ajarat has met many prominent people through her interfaith work. Archbishop Desmond Tutu approached her backstage at One Young World.
BADA: He just found me and just gave me this handshake and a pat on the back. And he's just so nice.
DESMOND TUTU: It's incredible for me to be here with you.
SWEAS: Back in California, Ajarat stays connected to her new global network through Skype. During one moment The One Young World office checks in from London about another global campaign.
SKYPE CALL: We are now over 25,000 and 83 countries...
SWEAS: A few minutes later, Ajarat discusses strategy with a colleague in Argentina.
BADA: I think it's important to stay grounded.
COLLEAGUE: You should send an e-mail with like those exact words. I'm around.
SWEAS: Changing the world is slow, frustrating work. Complicating matters, Ajarat's student visa is expiring and she's unemployed. She's applied for a green card. It's easier, she says, to be a global activist based in California.
Despite high rates of unemployment here, Ajarat feels that she'll be able to find work that allows her to make a difference. She says corruption prevents effective change in her home country.
BADA: Maybe I'm just afraid of the unknown of working in Nigeria. Maybe that's what it is.
SWEAS: But more than anything, Southern California is her home now. Here Ajarat has met a diverse group of Muslim women who meet twice a week. They provide her support, she says while munching on Middle-Eastern snacks.
BADA: I mean, you can see what I come to every Thursday night. You know, we just sit around and talk to the girls, which is nice. So right now I feel good. Obviously, sometimes when I think about it, I'm down and worry about what the future has to hold for me, but one day at a time. So today was a good day.
SWEAS: Ajarat wants to begin a Ph.D. program in the fall of 2013. She hopes to flesh out her interfaith initiative at school, and devise a plan to encourage dialogue around the world. In the meantime, she'll continue applying for jobs. She's confident everything will work out -- inshallah -- she says. God willing.