African Scholar Forms Lasting Ties to U.S.
By Laszlo Domjan
The United States gained a lifelong friend in the West African country of Burkina Faso thanks to the four years Abdoulaye Zorome spent on Webster University’s main campus.
Zorome came to Webster in 2006 as a Fulbright Scholar and earned a bachelor’s in education in 2008 and a master’s in international relations in 2009. He arrived back in his native Burkina Faso this January full of excitement about his American experiences.
“The years I spent in the U.S. were very educational and formative,” he said. “I returned home transformed and inspired to bring my little contribution to society. I am very grateful and thankful to all the great people who helped me along the way.”
Zorome, 27, was born in Upper Volta the year before the nation of 15 million people changed its name in 1984. Burkina Faso translates as “country of honorable people” or “country of upright men.” It gained independence from France in 1960. The official language has remained French.
Zorome comes from a family of 23 children. Though neither of his parents could read or write, they encouraged Zorome to be educated. He is the first in his family to graduate from college. Two of his sisters are college freshmen, majoring in economics and sociology.
“Girls’ education is very important if Africa is ever to achieve sustainable development,” Zorome said. “It is like trying to achieve development with only 48 percent of the population, which roughly represents the male population in Burkina Faso.
“I saw what an educated girl represents for the entire society. In terms of disease prevention and education, the potential is very great. There is a saying that if you educate a man, you educate an individual and if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
Zorome found particular satisfaction working as a graduate assistant at Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs department. He helped ease other international students’ transition to life on campus and the U.S.
“If we all take time to know each other, we will realize that we share more things in common than things that separate us,” he said. “The friendship and cultural education I got will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
While at Webster, he was picked for a two-month internship at the United Nations in New York and worked on a report that made recommendations on non-governmental organizations in French West Africa. As he awaits responses to his applications for jobs across the globe, he says he “would not think twice” about accepting any offer from the UN.
“Long term, I want to be in a position where I can help people who have been less fortunate than me by using the education and exposure I got through the years,” he said. “Ultimately I am looking for a job that will be challenging and also be of interest to me in other words, not just the paycheck.”
Always, he said, he will remember fondly his years at Webster. He is especially grateful to Glenn Detrick, a former associate dean of the business school at Washington University and at whose home Zorome stayed for three years while in St. Louis. In February Detrick joined him in Burkina Faso for a tour that also included stops in Mali, Senegal and Ghana.
“I realized that Glenn and I were living up to the philosophy of J. William Fulbright to ‘promote mutual understanding among people,’” Zorome said.
Zorome said he is readying the welcome mat for other Americans to visit his homeland.
“I have been touched by (Americans’) kindness and friendship,” he said. “To all my friends, the doors of Burkina Faso will be open to you as you opened me your doors. I mean it.”