Where is that accent from? That is the first question people ask me whenever I speak the English that I learned from the best high school in my country. I would tell them, I was born and raised in Togo, a small French country, in West Africa, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. I am going to the U of A for aerospace engineering and applied mathematics, and I am planning on completing a PhD in dynamic and control of robotic devices, is what I tell people who ask me what I am doing in USA. My personal story is a powerful evidence that it is not the society which determines people's identities and who they should be, but their ability to overcome obstacles, engage in personal growth, and project an image of how they want people to see them.
As complex as it can be seen, personal identity depends on social categorization. For example it does not surprise the majority that immigrants in the United States are often engineers, doctors or scientist, but it is unusual for an Immigrant to be an English teacher or a lawyer. To project his/her personal identity, one should fight against cultural resignation and pursue his/her goal regardless of his/her ethnicity. By breaking this bridge one can convince other's that he/she is not a product of the identity constructed by others. When I graduated from high school with honor in mathematics and physics I could not think about anything other than becoming aerospace engineer. For people around me, this was an unachievable goal. They had a good reason that leads to such assumption. In West Africa there is only one country, Niger, in collaboration with six other countries which offer aircraft engineering program; selection consists in randomly choosing two persons per country, every year, based on mathematics, physics, English, and computer proficiency, but only the first ten transcripts received by the commission will be considered. After three years of teaching in high school, I finally passed the test for admission. There, I also won the American's Diversity Lottery Visa which gave me the right to become a permanent resident of the United States where I can finally achieve my goal. Some people might say I was lucky, and maybe I was, but without my ability to fight against cultural resignations and pursue my goal regardless, I would not have taken a next step toward a degree in Senegal where I finally won my immigration to the USA.
While I thought I was done dealing with people around me, I didn't know it was just the beginning of a fight against language barrier and racism. I wish there was at least one black, even if it was a black American in my program at the U of A. This alienation with only whites, rather than weakening me, confirmed how smart I was to be the only black in the whole program. "Do you know Togo?" I asked. "I don't," was their answer. "You should go there some times," I replied. It makes them feel what it really means to be ignorant about another's culture. It was my ability to develop imagination that changed the image that my classmates had on Africa; for most of them, "google Africa and you will find monkeys, gorillas, and war."
The projection of personal identity can be very challenging especially for immigrants in the United States, as seeing through my personal experiences. One way to project personal identity begins with the refusal to fit into a restricted society in which resignation is not an option, then the ability to overcome language barrier. Only by action, by moving out into the world, confronting, and challenging the obstacles like I did, could one learn anything worthy. One will overcome all the discrimination in this word if he or she believe in him/herself.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Arizona - Bachelors, Applied Math
I love being the DJ during my free time
Q & A
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