“God Did”: Nissi Babalola’s Student Journey

Discover how Bethel became a space for personal growth and transformation for recent business graduate, Nissi Babalola ’23.

By Macey Heath, social media content strategist

February 19, 2024 | 8 a.m.

Nissi Babalola

Nissa Babalola '23

“I remember sitting in front of my mother’s shop in Nigeria, only imagining what my ‘tomorrow’ would be. But here I am today,” Nissi Babalola ’23 shared on Instagram in December, alongside a photo of herself in her Bethel commencement cap. “Bethel University, for me, was more than getting a degree, it was a life-changing experience. God was so invested and intentional in my journey at Bethel. Countless difficulties along the way, still I am able to say ‘God did!’”

Babalola’s Bethel experience was transformative, filled with faith, self-discovery, and a commitment to following her calling. Born and raised in Nigeria, Babalola moved to California in 2016, and later to Minnesota, which eventually led her to Bethel University. Babalola attributes much of her journey to divine guidance: "I believe that was God's plan for me, and everything aligned the way it should have.”  

Driven by a desire to find a school that would not only help her grow academically but also spiritually, Babalola explored various faith-centered colleges. Bethel, with its proximity to family and the opportunity of an Act Six Scholarship, emerged as a top choice. She vividly remembers the first moment she felt the vibrant energy of the Bethel community at an overnight campus visit event designed for admitted students. "My first time on campus, I could feel the presence of God. I just felt at peace. I felt at home," she recalls. The sense of peace and welcoming energy she experienced during that moment solidified her decision to choose Bethel as the place to pursue her higher education.

"It's okay to be yourself, to be authentic, to not just go with what is expected of you, but what God truly desires for your life.”

— Nissi Babalola, '23

Initially a nursing student, Babalola’s academic journey took a turn as she delved into self-reflection. To her, taking the path of nursing was more of an expectation others had of her, rather than a path that housed her own interests and calling.  “I realized how important it is to learn who you are and what God is calling you to do, not just what others expect of you. In my sophomore year, God was intentional with me, guiding me to reflect on who I am, who I want to become, and how to use the gifts He has given me,” she says.

This prompted a change in her major to business, aligning with her newfound understanding of herself and her talents. "I realized that business was in alignment with what God desires for my life," she says. Babalola emphasizes the significance of authenticity in one's faith journey and following where God is calling you. "It's okay to be yourself, to be authentic, to not just go with what is expected of you but what God truly desires for your life," she says.

“Bethel gave me the space to truly experience God for myself.”

— Nissi Babalola, '23

Reflecting on her faith journey at Bethel, Babalola acknowledges a shift from a structured, routine-based faith to a more personal and relational one. “I grew up in a Christian home. A lot of my family are in ministry. So growing up, over time, my faith grew to be a routine of just going to church, and doing what was expected,” she says. “While I was at Bethel, I felt I had a place where I could really be authentic in my relationship with God, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do that.” At Bethel, Babalola experienced an environment that encouraged personal growth and an authentic faith. Participating in student activities like Vespers and Chapel, she found an atmosphere that not only accommodated but actively fostered spiritual growth and development.

“Bethel gave me the space to truly experience God for myself. Just to have the atmosphere of encouraging professors, friends who share the same faith, even walking down the hallways and seeing the uplifting Bible verses along the walls, the whole environment is inviting,” she says.

Babalola acknowledges the key relationships that played a pivotal role in her student experience—including peers, mentors, and friends who guided her throughout her college years. “The entire Office of Inclusive Excellence—with Vice President Rahn Franklin, and especially Associate Dean Jamey Johnson—they helped me along my entire journey with personal and spiritual development. I also don’t know what my journey would be without the Act Six scholars, my friends, and the students at the Cultural Connection Center (CCC). To just have that space to come there to be myself helped me grow in community,” she says.  Her network of supportive individuals, peers, and friends shaped her college experience into one of inclusiveness and personal growth. 

Nissi with friends

Babalola '23 with Bethel friends

“Bethel is there to help you. There are so many resources and people willing to help, so take advantage of that whenever possible.”

— Nissi Babalola, '23

One of the most important things Babalola has taken away from her student experience is a willingness to be open to new experiences and step out of her comfort zone. She explains how much she would have missed out on if she had never taken that initial step. “I initially wasn’t as open to meeting new people and participating in things. Later on, I opened up, met amazing people, and started getting involved in amazing things,” she says. Babalola also places emphasis on the reciprocity of giving and receiving. "Give as much as you can, and be open to receiving. You get what you give," she says.

Babalola encourages new students to contribute as much as possible and be open to receiving support and guidance, noting how quickly time passes during the university years. "Soak up as much as you can. Once that time has passed, you can't go back to it," she says. “Bethel is there to help you. There are so many resources and people willing to help, so take advantage of that whenever possible. Four years might seem like a lot, but it is going to go by quickly. When it’s done and over, the only things you have to look back on is what you’ve given or received, so do that as much as possible.”

As a recent graduate in the field of marketing, Babalola aims to provide leadership to young people and give back to the community which has helped her along her student journey. “I’d like to speak to the younger generation and give back. I know how important guidance is—personally, how people have spoken to me has had a great impact on my life. So to be able to encourage young people to believe in and develop themselves spiritually and personally, and to go to different schools or churches to talk to people and be among the community, is what I’d love to do,” she says.  

Babalola’s journey at Bethel transformed her focus from performance and expectations to a deeper understanding of character and self. She acknowledges that personal growth and finding oneself during college years is just part of the journey with God. As she moves forward, Babalola remains committed to her faith, personal growth, and the uplifting of others in her community.

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At Bethel, we value, engage, and include the rich diversity of everyone in our community. In the Office of Inclusive Excellence, you’ll find a variety of opportunities, scholarships, programs, and resources that provide support to all students.

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