Recent Ball State alum and Fulbright recipient,  Ritassida Mamadou Djiguimde, recounts his experience of moving from his home in Burkina Faso to the United States in order to earn his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Ball State University. In his first installment in a series of guest posts, Mamadou discusses his reactions to receiving the Fulbright, traveling to a foreign country, and adjusting to life in Indiana. In future posts, Mamadou will share his thoughts on his English education and discuss how he is utilizing his Ball State English degree.

December 14, 2006, 2 PM. My phone rang and I could read on the screen “Incoming Call, Madame Kaboré.” That was the phone call I had long been yearning for. I picked it up and I could hear: “Is this Djiguimde Ritassida Mamadou?” A word could not come out of my mouth. Then, she added: “you have been selected as a Fulbright grantee to pursue your studies in the United States. Can you come in my office tomorrow morning to apply for the J 1 visas?” “Sure, sure, I will be there early in the morning.” I replied.  When she hanged up, I roared of joy, a roar which scared away some vultures eyeballing on a butcher in Fô, the village where I was working as a census supervisor.  My dream had finally come true! Going to United States, yes I will be going! Everything I had heard, read, and seen about the United States was going in a chaotic way through my mind: skyscrapers, hot girls, nice cars, no poverty, hip hop artists, police chasing after bad guys, latest technologies, cowboys, insane guys randomly shooting at people, etc.  It was a mixture of feelings: scaring but tempting.

January 6, 2007, 11 PM. There was I taking off for Tucson Arizona.

January 7, 2007, 5 PM. Arrival in Tucson after flying through Paris and Atlanta.  There, I could not speak one French word. Everything had to be in English from then on. But… what was I thinking? After all, my very reason to attend the University of Arizona was actually to learn the English Language. Learn English in order to be able to attend regular university classes.  Eight months after being through intensive English at the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL), I received an admission letter from Ball State University stating that I have been accepted to complete a Bachelor of Arts in English education. “Where is Ball State located?” I inquired. I went online and found that it is in Indiana. Indiana? Was that a place in India? Don’t get pissed off hoosiers! This is just called ignorance.

August 12, 2007, 6 PM.  Arrival in Indianapolis airport after flying through Dallas. At Dallas, I actually missed my flight because I kept looking at my watch, which had Tucson time. Consequence: I missed the shuttle which was supposed to take me to Muncie.  It is only when I got to Indy that I actually learned to correctly pronounce the name of that city. My pronunciation of Indianapolis sounded more like “Indiana Police.” Since I missed the shuttle, I had to take a taxi from Indianapolis to Muncie. That was the most expensive taxi I have taken in my life. $200! God, that represents my school fees for an entire year in Burkina Faso. On my way to Muncie, I suddenly got scared. I had been bewitched by that strange idea that my new state was too dark, and it looked like a dense forest to me. When I got to Muncie, that idea was bewitching me more and more. I spent my first night at the Student Center. When I woke up in the morning, that same idea was still hunting me. Indiana had too many trees; and they were not just too many, they were also gigantic. I was having all these strange feelings forgetting that I had just arrived from Tucson, Arizona.

August 15, 2007, 7PM: There was I going for regular university classes. The demography of my classrooms had changed. My classmates were no longer Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Saudis, Ivoirians, or Kenyans; they were mostly Americans. Not Americans from Indiana, but actually from all over the US. (…) During my stay at Ball State, I had great and comprehensible teachers and academic advisors.  The atmosphere in my classes was really friendly. I mostly enjoyed the city of Muncie which although small, still had a lot to offer. That friendly atmosphere got even better with time. I made acquaintance with one of my greatest friends in life. Josh Zimmerman is his name. If you know him or have known him, you would realize how great a person he is. My literature classes at Ball State were all captive, and I really liked the creative way in which they were taught.

July 24, 2010. 9 AM  There was I dressed in a gown for a successful completion of a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

August 3, 2010. 5 PM  There was I landing on my native land Burkina Faso, the land of upright people. That is our aspiration. Was my experience in the United States up to the dream I had beforehand? How did I feel when I got back home after 3 years and half of absence? What questions have I been asked by people in my country? What have I been doing upon returning home? What did my experience in the United States teach me? How am I using my education at Ball State University in Burkina Faso? Even though I could not instantaneously feel the impact of my Ball State education, it is actually shaping my life in Burkina Faso. In my upcoming posts, you will have an answer to some of these questions raised.

Djiguimde Ritassida Mamadou

Fulbright, Ball State alumnus

B.A. English Literature

English Teacher