August 22, 2017
Six years ago, I was a bubbly senior high school graduate, and like many of my peers, with lofty aspirations for the future. For the handful of us had attended selective private schools instead of the more popular public schools, failure was not an option. Failure, meant not getting a grade good enough to be enrolled into the ‘choice degree courses’ (Law, Accounting, Medicine or Engineering) at the University of Sierra Leone.
Luckily, I made it into the Accounting program, and was set on a path for success. The plan at that time was to get my degree in accounting, do a professional course in accounting, work my way to the top of an accounting firm and somewhere along the line start a family.
Midway through my first year, I attended an open house Ashesi had organized in Free Town. I was spellbound. Back then, the lovely and clean campus from the video they showed was what first caught my eye. Growing up, I had become particularly upset by unhygienic conditions in Freetown, so I was interested in how this community made it work. Then there was the liberal arts education. Because very few universities on this side of the world used the liberal arts education, I was naturally attracted to Ashesi’s uniqueness. Moreover, as someone with interests in especially developmental issues, the Ashesi’s well-rounded approach that would help me critically think through and even work on solutions to solve such issues, was riveting. Up until when I chanced upon Ashesi, I had never considered studying outside Sierra Leone, but something about this university drew me to it. Perhaps, it was love at first sight.
I applied and got in!
During my time at Ashesi, I formed bonds I know will last my lifetime. From Jamaica, Vietnam, United States, India, Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, Lesotho, France and my very own Ghana — I have friends all over the world. As an international student, I got to go “home” to my friend’s Latifah Lamptey’s house over holidays. The people that have I have met are surely contributing immensely and positively to the career I am trying to build. For instance, an American lecturer of mine who knows my interest in working with social enterprises as catalysts for development connected me with an American social enterprise doing work in Sierra Leone.
Over my years, my Ashesi experience has been a global one: I’ve built a network that will help sharpen my world view. My closest friend; one Ghanaian, and the other Nigerian, and I are looking forward to working on social impact projects together, after Ashesi. My Jamaican friend, who I met while studying abroad at Macalester College, has convinced me to take a trip to Jamaica, a country that shares so much in common with both Ghana and Sierra Leone.
My time at Ashesi helped open me up to the world, helped me discover my love for learning about other cultures and a gave me a thirst for exploring opportunities. Until Ashesi, I had not been beyond the shores of Sierra Leone but now, I feel like I’ve experienced more of the world that I could have imagined possible, in four years.
Jim Reeves’ popular song says, “This world is not my home, I am just passing through”. For someone that is just passing through, I sure have more than a few couches on almost every continent to crash on.
I have been injected with a dose of self-awareness and a sense of purpose. It has been the only community where my big dreams of tackling developmental issues have not been outright shut down. Instead they have been nurtured even during times I feel inadequate pursuing them. My biggest take away from Ashesi is learning to think big and believing I can do anything. I have been with people who believe in me way more than I believe in myself.
Going back home, I have always had this deep-seated conviction about actively contributing towards the development of Sierra Leone. Privately I knew I wanted to be where the action in development is taking place — whether in government or with an international organization like the United Nations. However, like most of my mates, I was supposed to follow the path popurlary travelled. I realized that achieving my public or private dreams would be tough either way, especially being born and raised in a low-income country like Sierra Leone.
Now, I think differently and feel more empowered to go against the status quo. If I can work with others in my generation, who are up for the challenge, to start and grow businesses that will solve social issues in the interest of every individual — I believe I will die in peace.
Graduating from Ashesi makes me anxious yet optimistic. Anxious that I will find myself surrounded by people who do not share my same ideals and stifle the change I want to make. Yet optimistic that my new found sense of purpose will attract like-minded people to me with whom I can achieve my dreams.
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