By Maria Dombaxi
From Benin to Ethiopia, Angola to Tanzania, many African women are leaving the comfort of their homes to get a higher education abroad. They go through the ups and downs of living in the diaspora, making new friends, missing their families to get the education they deserve.
Living in different cities around the world, these young students adventured into a new life, on their own, in order to insure their future. So how do they do it? Nobody can tell you their stories better than them.
- Sara Tesfaye, a young Ethiopian student living in Grenoble, France is studying Architecture. This young student says that living abroad is “very different. Coming from a place where you had a house help, (someone was always around to assist you) to doing everything yourself because you are on your own. You are independent and you learn a great deal of responsibility”.
Unlike in other developed continents, many Africans don’t have the luxury of studying in their own country. Some don’t have the luxury to study at all. But with the motivation and the hard work Sara Tesfaye shows that we can all succeed if we put our minds to it. Covered by her scholarship she can pursue her dreams of working in a field linked to architecture and social work with possibility of also fulfilling her desire to build for the poor and help them.
But with higher education comes greater obstacles. Apart from the usual issues all students have with workload these young women also have to deal with being away from family, a problem that can sometimes have an impact on their state of mind. Sara says, “Once in a while, you miss home. The simplest things like nodding your head as a sign of respect and to say hello if you make eye contact with a person, even if it’s a stranger. They don’t do that here in France”.
- Andrea Florence is also experiencing life away from home but different from Miss Tesfaye. This young Beninese student says that it’s easier for her in Montréal, Canada where she’s majoring in business administration because she is surrounded by some of her loved ones but “it can get pretty tough because of the distance but very exciting as well”, she says.
Although life in the diaspora isn’t easy for them, the most interesting part about the struggle is the experience. Most of the people struggling through everyday life in in Africa go abroad with many hopes and dreams, hoping that life there is easier than in Africa. But these young women are proof that life isn’t easy anywhere, unless you make it easier for yourself. Andrea Florence said, when asked if she was willing to go back home after her studies “a few years ago I would have said hell no, but I think I actually do.”
There are more and more African students leaving Africa to pursue their education, half of them leave with a negative view of their continent and prefer to work abroad rather than working in Africa. But most of these women have shown that it’s okay to work abroad but even better to contribute to the development of their own continent.
- Irene Kilowoko, is from Tanzania and studies in Columbus, Ohio, United States. For her the hardest thing about living in the diaspora is not having the advantages that local citizens have and although it’s easy to adapt to the culture she would prefer to use her Bachelor of Science back home.
All these different women will be considered lucky having lived in Europe, the USA and Asia. Are they lucky to be given a chance to study? Yes of course but all this comes at a great price. Unless you live in France where school is almost free, (except for private schools), they have to pay very expensive fees. Some have scholarships, some work and others depend on their parents who are also working hard to be able to afford their children’s education. Where ever they are in the world these young African women understand the urge of developing Africa.
One such person is Carla Pascoal, an Angolan Tourism student living in Lisbon, Portugal. Even though adapting is easier for her because of the language facilities and the amount of Angolans living in Portugal, all she wants is to be professionally successful in Africa.
Adapting to a culture can be easy, living in a different country can be fun but calling a place home is a different issue. As much as some are in a hurry to leave Africa, there is no place like home. You can change your name or your habits but you can’t change your origins.
The question that has been on my mind is, if these women loved Africa so much why go so far from home to finish school? Why didn’t they stay in Africa to get their education? Well most of us or should I say all of us know someone, friends and family who didn’t finish school. Due to poverty, lack of schools or even the belief the African culture has that women do not need to be educated because they will be married off. Women are the brides not the head of household; they take care of the kitchen and give strong African men 12 babies they can’t afford to feed. Sadly enough Africans are not prepared to educate women because gender inequality is still a big issue in Africa. Most of our African women who have the courage to study in Africa lack the opportunities to show their potentials. These women should be celebrated, encouraged and inspired because it takes hard work for great achievements and they are willing to put in the extra time, blood sweat and tears.
Delila Tesfaye put in the extra work for her degree and now for her masters in communication and marketing. Studying in Lyon, France she says that life in the diaspora “can be challenging at times. Some may say it depends on the environment others may say your attitude but I believe it is a mixture of both. I also believe it is essentially the tolerance level in some countries. Some people are ignorant and choose to stay that way. They believe they are right therefore they cannot move forward. I find it frustrating but I know I am better than these people who have nothing better to do than to label others. My purpose is my education so it gets easier in time.”
This young Ethiopian student makes it all clear to us on why she is studying so hard; when I asked her if she was willing to go back home after her studies she answered “Definitely! That is the reason why I am here. To get the necessary tools and education that I can share with people and help my nation and continent grow.”
With the media and the images shown around the world about Africa we tend to concentrate on the problems. And yes, Africa has many problems and some will say there is no hope but others like Delila Tesfaye understand the responsibility all educated Africans have. If not as a nation then as brothers or in this case as sisters, because we are the future mothers of Africa and we control the future so it’s up to us to teach and share our knowledge with those who don’t have the opportunities we have.
Studying tourism, management, science, journalism, administration and so much more will create and fill jobs in Africa. These are only a few of the many young educated African women who are studying hard in the diaspora to one day make a difference in Africa.