I was born in Ivory Coast and grew up both there and Burkina Faso. We moved from Ivory Coast to Burkina Faso because there was civil war over there from 2007 or something like that. It started in 2001, and ended around 2009 or 2010. Once we got to Burkina Faso, it was discovered that there was probability that there was oil in the ground. The terrorists just showed up there right away, which started to mess up our life there, too. My dad decided to apply for the visa lottery to come to the United States, and he got it. I was at university and it was towards the end of the month and I called home and said, “Dad, I think it is time that I come home and get my pocket money” and he said okay. When I got there, he showed me a paper. I took it and just saw things in English and thought – but what does this have to do with my spending money? I was a broke student! I read the paper and it said something about “your application has been accepted” and lottery and visa and something like that. And I said, so, are we moving? At first I was expecting that my parents would go and let me stay behind and watch the house, but no, they dragged me, too. I have 3 siblings, one lives in China, but everyone else came here. My dad had a good business there and my mom worked in government, but here she stays home and my dad drives big CDL trucks around the country.
We’ve been in the United States for three years now. My parents wanted to come to America because of the opportunities for jobs and education for their kids, and for safety. We have terrorists messing up my home country. I was excited to come here because I had seen the country through many Hollywood movies, and I had friends who had come here to study. Coming to America is seen as a life success in my country. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but America is still a dream country for many, many people in the world.
My first memory of arriving in the United States was in New York. We stopped there on our way to Detroit, where I lived for six months. New York was just beautiful, but it also made me feel bad. Like, if we had to rank people, out of the 380 million Americans, I was on the bottom. I knew how hard I will have to work to get to get closer to the top. I have to hurry to learn something to catch up with everyone.
What’s your favorite book? Garfield Comics
What’s your favorite food? Ice cream
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Someone rich and generous.
What’s the craziest thing about Americans? How easily someone can take a gun and shoot someone. That’s crazy to me. Also, macaroni and cheese. The first time I had this, it was tasteless to me, but people love it here! But now I do my own version of that, I don’t do just cheese and mac. I add chicken and broccoli, and now it is better.
What are your long-term goals? I’d like to be rich, haha. I am studying for my Master’s degree in Computer Science here at IU South Bend – my goal is to someday build strong AI systems for cars, to make them talk and think like human beings. I would also like to buy a waterfront house on the St. Joseph River after graduating.
Interviewed by Caroline Bilsky