African students do not have a very traditional
Arnaud Cabore, junior business major, and Salomon Porgo, sophomore aeronautical engineer major, are attending Kent State to get a better education to take back home after they graduate. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater
Credit: DKS Editors
There have been days when Arnaud Cabore didn’t have enough money to eat. When he first came to the United States about two years ago, he had to sleep on a subway because he couldn’t afford a hotel.
“After you pay the rent and the bills, you may have $20 left, and that means that you maybe are not going to eat somedays,” said Cabore, a junior business major and native to Burkina Faso, Africa. “I spent two years here before I bought new shoes or clothes.”
Students from Africa go through the same things other students face in college: limited funding, anxiety about the future and social struggles, said Babacar M’Baye, an assistant professor and native of Senegal.
“A good way to understand what African students are going through here is for other students to take courses about Africa that help them understand how modern and complex and sophisticated current African countries are,” M’Baye said. “Young Africans in Africa worry about the same types of things young Americans worry about. They listen to the same types of music. They wear the same types of clothes.”
Cabore said it is very hard to be a student from Africa “because you have to work your ass off.”
“I have to work 40 hours a week, take five classes and keep up a GPA to maintain my Honors status,” he said. “I have to be at work every day so I don’t get fired and not have the money to pay for school. You have all this pressure over your head, but you have to keep on going.”
Salomon Porgo, a sophomore aeronautical engineer major, also a Burkina Faso native, said it is very hard for a student from Burkina Faso to go to Kent State because it is so expensive.
It costs $9 million Francs, the equivalent to $15,000, to go to school every year here at Kent State, he said. On average, he said, most citizens of Burkina Faso only make $200 a month. It is difficult for his dad, who owns his own construction business, to provide for him because he is responsible for feeding and educating others in his extended family.
African students don’t like to ask their parents for money because they know they are already giving everything possible, Porgo said.
“My father has to take care of his children, his brother’s children and some cousins – basically 25 people,” he said. “In Africa, we believe that your brother’s children are your own children. So if my uncle is not able to pay, my dad has to take care of his kids.”
Cabore said his education takes up 80 percent of his father’s budget every year. And even though Cabore has scholarships, he still must pay for his apartment and other living expenses.
Fraternities and other organizations seem appealing to both Cabore and Porgo, but they both concede that there is just not enough time in their days if they want to maintain their scholarships and high GPAs. Cabore has a 3.65 GPA and Porgo has a 3.42 GPA.
Cabore said now is the time in his life when he should be having the most fun, but it is very hard because of the circumstances that allow him to live in America as a student.
“We don’t have time to have fun here,” he said. “If you’re at work, if you have to do homework, if you have to think about the people who are sick or dying at home, how much fun can you be?”
It is important for Porgo and Cabore to stay focused because they plan on returning to Burkina Faso and starting their own businesses. Porgo said he eventually wants to get involved in politics because within the next five years, things are only going to get worse economically and politically in his country.
“The poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer,” Porgo said. “We have a country to save, so we cannot stay here.”
Cabore said he came to America because those individuals at the top of the government in Burkina Faso control all of the money flowing in and out of the country.
“If the people at the top don’t care, it is going to be a big mess at the bottom,” he said. “Nothing is organized, students cannot study and learn, workers cannot make money and corruption is high.”
He added that it is hard coming from a country no one has ever heard of and trying to interact with other students.
“When I say Burkina Faso, you can count on one hand how many people have ever heard of the country,” he said. “When people learn that about me, they automatically think they are better than me because I am from Africa. No matter what, that is the assumption. We don’t have time to focus on these things though.”
M’Baye said students from Africa generally face the condescending stereotypes and ignorance generally associated with the United States. The misunderstandings continue to exist because “people are not taking the African history and African literature courses that are available here on campus.”
Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected]