Jessica Nabongo ‘05C is well on her way to becoming the first documented black woman to travel to all countries in the world. Ms. Nabongo, who majored in English with minors in Africana Studies and Advertising Communication, has had a prestigious and wide-ranging career path that includes entrepreneur and social media influencer.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan to Ugandan immigrant parents, Ms. Nabongo is an American with dual citizenship to Uganda. She came to St. John’s in 2002 to be in New York City and while a student was active in Haraya, the African Students Association, and the Sociology Club. Along with Associate Professor of History Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Ms. Nabongo helped to create the Africana Studies minor.
After graduation, Ms. Nabongo returned to Detroit and worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for two years before moving to Japan to teach English for a year. She traveled around the world for the following eight months and began her blog, Catch Me If You Can. After completing a master’s degree at the London School of Economics, Ms. Nabongo worked for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Benin for six months. She moved to Rome in 2011 to work for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and in 2015, while living in Washington, D.C., started her own travel agency, Jet Black. Jet Black hosts group and private trips to countries that aren’t typical tourist destinations with the aim of increasing tourism to these countries in contributing to their economies.
As an entrepreneur, Ms. Nabongo has found happiness. “The most important thing is my freedom,” she said.
Having embarked on her goal to visit every country in the world, Ms. Nabongo approaches travel with enthusiasm, curiosity, and courage. She leads by example, showing women, people of color, and citizens of countries outside the U.S. that they, too, can travel to many destinations around the world. She encourages people to challenge their assumptions about how dangerous or unwelcoming some countries may be and not to let these concerns hinder anyone from moving about the world freely. To Ms. Nabongo, we are all citizens of the world.
To St. John’s students interested in expanding their own perspective, Ms. Nabongo advises seeking out study abroad opportunities and “go out into the city! There are so many ways to learn about new cultures through the food and people of New York.”