Gambia Recruiting Trip 2012 – Part 1

by Professor_B

First visit to Gambia!  Recruiting is both professional and educational.

One of my personal passions while recruiting is to sample a culture in terms of its cuisine, social customs, and to learn how the folks go about their daily lives.

I strongly believe that having some knowledge of a culture, assimilating a bit, getting into the politics, local issues, and the dietary nuances all help me to connect with prospective students and also to better tend to the needs of those who actually make it to the US to Study.

Gambia is the 14th African country I have visited along with 23 others from the rest of the world.

With a packed agenda, I anticipated little time to “feel the country.”  But the most striking thing I observed was a conspicuous orderliness to the way people go about their daily lives.

There is no traffic, no hustle, no chaos.  This is quite atypical for African capitals where traffic is usually a predictable nightmare.

I had my first session at a church hall, a rare Christian enclave in a country with the highest percentage of Muslims at over 90%.

I have other stops scheduled at three international schools along with the American Corner—the Education USA access point.

My first stop yielded a modest 15 students.  Sadly 12 of them we highly representative of what I meet in West Africa–brilliant students with a dream and a glitter in their eyes—but with no financial means to make it remotely plausible.  I encouraged them to seek options in Gambia where the ” not affordable” cost for them is still less than 10% of our modest cost.

For students with the challenge of paying for an undergraduate education in their country, but with a dream of going to the USA, that can be a daunting proposition.

There are very few full scholarships (and I personally don’t know of any) funded by universities, for international undergraduate students—certainly none for other than the very top students—top as in perfect SAT scores and five A levels.  The hyperbole is meant to stress the rarity of such a scholarship if it does indeed exist.

I will keep my line of optimism, from a recruiting point of view, a bit more open as I visit the international schools.

The public sessions do allow me to connect with the population, advise some really polite and impressive young folks, but seldom serve as fertile recruiting grounds because of the aforementioned financial disparities between the US and most other countries in this region.

As a matter of general advice to those with such challenges, try your best to get the lesser sum, finish your degree in your home country; do well; and be assured that the options are much better for you at the graduate level in the USA.  As the cliche goes, Keep hope alive….but adhere to reality. Sometimes, life just is not fair.

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