So why do I want to leave the U.S. for a whole semester? Why do I want to study abroad? Why do I want to go so far away?…Well I just do! Even before I entered Illinois Wesleyan University, study abroad was always promoted to me. I must admit that it all sounded very wonderful – studying in a different country with other students around the country, traveling around, experiencing a different culture, enjoying a change of environment, getting credit towards my degree while I am gone…etc…etc….I just decided to go for it! I did my research and chose the School of International Training known on campus as SIT. As an International Studies major with a focus on Development Studies and a minor in French, the comfort of a developed country in Europe or elsewhere around the world was out of the question. I had to challenge myself in a developing country. I chose Cameroon because of many reasons. With my Togolese background, it will be a chance to go back to Africa for a study abroad experience! There was no snow (Yay!) I will get to practice my French skills, and…well…it is a country in which I thought I could really enjoy myself while learning. It was also the home country of one of the students I used to tutor at the RefugeeOne youth center in Chicago. Once my decision was made, I sent in my application, got admission into the SIT program but was unable to get a passport. My study abroad process actually began in 2009, when I was not yet a U.S. citizen. I was unable to renew my Togolese passport because of political unrest during corrupted (oh yes! as always believe me!) Togolese presidential elections that affected policies and daily business at their embassy in Washington, DC. However, I never gave up. Instead of waiting for the Togolese government to get its act together, I got my SIT admission differed and began the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. As soon as I took oath in August, I got my U.S. passport. Now it was time to look for ways to afford my trip to Cameroon. I applied for the Gilman Scholarship and…I got it!! (Yay!). As part of the application process, I wrote a project proposal to share my Cameroonian experience through this blog. I promised to promote international education through the Gilman scholarship with my experience. This trip would not be possible without the assistance that I am receiving and I am really grateful for that. I am also glad that I did not give up as well. I am finally getting the chance to experience another culture outside the U.S. (oh yes far away from my cold Wesleyan campus!), and to make new friends. I am finally going back to Africa to study as a female college student (notice I keep repeating that…it’s just a big thing for me to be a female senior college student with an African background!). I must admit that some of my African friends, especially the ones who are still living in Africa, do not understand why I want to come back when I was lucky enough to get out of the bad and corrupted educational system they are stuck in. However, for me, going back to Africa to study abroad is a way to re-analyzed some parts of the educational system that I will be exposed to, from the point of view of an American female college student. For example, asking permission to visit a school during my independent study project time, sit in a class to observe, and see how different subjects are taught. Since I will be attending Dschang University, I can easily do this at the university level. I am living in my own little bubble and for the first time, I am given the chance to leave that bubble. Even though I am only going to Cameroon for a few months, I am really excited to share my experiences. I will be attending seminar style classes, classes at the market, classes at the university, learning about Cameroonian traditional customs, politics, historical palaces, dances, speaking in French (the whole trip!), doing an independent study project for a month, writing a 30 pages thesis paper on my project (dreading that part but I know I will enjoy whatever I choose to write about), traveling around in Yaounde and Douala, living with Cameroonian host families, and much….much more….This is just a great experience to close off my last semester as a member of the Illinois Wesleyan bubble (sad but true…IWU is a bubble). It begins when I land in Cameroon on January 25th, 2011.