Spring 2013 Scholarship Finalist: Fatimata Sanogo

Fatimata Sanogo from Burkina Faso studying at San Diego City College is one of 12 finalists for the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship. Read her essay here!

According to Carl Roger, for a person to grown, they need an environment that provides them with genuineness, acceptance, and empathy. This “golden” environment described by Roger is, I believe, essential for not only personal growth, but also fulfilling your academic and career goals. I found my golden environment across the Atlantic Ocean when I moved from Burkina Faso to San Diego, to pursue my college education. I was excited and eager to move to another country. The United States has provided a great environment for me to grow and learn, and has opened the door to endless opportunities.

Burkina Faso is a country where social oppression is real. There is a gender conditioning since women are taught to believe that they are intellectually inferior to men and are given very few opportunities to education. The community values the ideas of the group and the individual ideas are given less importance. People in your community expect you to conform to the customs. Different ideas are not celebrated. In fact, if you try to be yourself, but you are different in your way, then you are easily pointed out. Back home my dream was to study Biochemistry and become a scientist researcher. My research interest included diseases like cancer, HIV and malaria. When I was going to school, we lacked materials for labs and sometimes teachers etc. There is a lack of technology and adequate equipment to study Biochemistry in Burkina Faso. In addition, my family wanted me to behave in a certain way to maintain a good image of myself, and them too in the community. People tried to convince me that long-term studies are not meant for women because they main role in the society was to get married, have children and take care of the family.

When I moved to the United States to go to college, I lived with my host American family for a year and half. I faced cultural shock and language barrier but soon adapted to my new environment by making friends, and volunteering in the community. The ambiance at home and the community was different from the one I had experience in Burkina. My host family always valued and respected my ideas, encouraged me to express my thoughts, feelings, and to try new things and learn from my experiences. They helped me build the confidence that I can achieve whatever major I choose to, and my gender should not be an obstacle to achieving my academic and career goals. I learned to think independently and to express my ideas without the fear of being judged, or ostracized. I experienced new things and tried new experiences that I realized give me a feeling of accomplishment. For instance, I have been volunteering at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center since September 2010. As a gallery facilitator, I realized that I enjoy teaching children scientific concepts like nanotechnology, density, the origins of life, and how to fly and AR Drone2. As I discovered that I enjoy teaching, I became a Math, and Chemistry tutor at my community college. My new golden environment has boosted my self-esteem and confidence.

As I grow to a confident young woman, I see the doors of opportunities opening to lead me to a successful career. My ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry, contribute to disease research and to provide adequate health conditions to diverse communities in the world. Last summer, I obtained an internship at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), through the Moores Cancer Center as a member of the Creating Scientists to Address Cancer Disparities Program. I was immersed in a research environment and gained laboratory skills: spectrophotometer usage, coupled assay systems, desalting columns, ion exchange chromatography, gel electrophoresis, protein purification, and proper pipetting techniques. I co-authored an abstract, which was presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in November of 2012. I am now a member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and will be attending the national AACR meeting this April in Washington DC. This meeting will also be a great opportunity to expand my horizons, network with scientists, meet people who share the same career goals than I, and come from different cultural backgrounds. Studying in another country gives me the opportunity to meet and work with people from different cultural background. It makes my learning even richer.

From my small hometown in Burkina Faso, I have always dreamed of becoming a scientist and being immersed in the world of disease research. Today, I am even closer to this career dream because I study in the United States, a country that offers far more opportunities than my country. In addition, living in a different culture has helped me learn how to interact in a diverse environment. It has helped me grow the way I could have never imagined if was still living in my country.

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