International Student of Month for Feburary, Adi Kouame Aubain
Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduce one international student by presenting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, ISS Graduate Assistant, Aftan Baldwin, interviewed Adi Kouame Aubain, a Fulbright graduate student from Ivory Coast at College of Education. The following is the interview and pictures that Adi shared with us.
Q: First Adi, would you briefly introduce yourself? Tell me what you are studying at Lehigh and when you will graduate.
A:My full name is Adi Kouame Aubain. But coming here it was reversed so it is Aubain Adi. Everyone calls me Adi, even in my country. I’m studying instructional technology and design at the College of Education. Instructional technology is basically how we can teach with technology. My goal is to contribute to the process of introducing technology in education in my country. It’s not something that is common there these days. When I came here, distant from my country, I realized that sure, introducing technology in schools would be beneficial but there are some other challenges that I really want to focus on. Education in African countries, in my country, has been limited to attending a school but we forget that there is a huge part of the population who has not been able to access education since independence until now. As a consequence, there is a clash between this part of the population, more traditional, and the modern generation, with a more modern culture. I think this is one of the origins of conflicts in Africa, our cultural differences and absence of understanding. We live in the same country but some people are thinking modern and some people are thinking tradition. It can’t work. So I think technology will also be a medium for the education of the population. That’s what I call “popular” education. It was used if France in the 1960s. That is, how to bring all the population to the same level of cultural understanding and tolerance.
So what side are you on? Are you modern or traditional?
A:Actually, I’m both. Because my teaching would not be typically modern. My teaching would be, how we can go back to our cultures. What we forget is that our culture is very rich but because it was oral culture we stopped teaching it and we started copying western cultures. When we copy the western countries, we just copy what is bad because we know very little about western countries. For example, I was surprised to when I came to America. It looked different from what I imagined. What I knew about America was in movies. The police chasing cars and violence. So actually we don’t know enough about the western countries’ culture that we are trying to copy.
Q: And when do you plan on graduating?
A: Normally I would go back to my country. If I have a PhD opportunity I will take it but I will graduate in the Fall. I’ll still be your neighbor until next fall.
Q: What do you think about Lehigh? Like the campus, the dorm the courses? What’s the most obvious difference between Lehigh and your home universities?
A:Very big differences. I’m not going to talk about infrastructures. It is quite obvious, but American university cultures. Lehigh, actually, I just know Lehigh. I’ve had a very good experience here. It looks like everything is free here. Food. Transportation. It’s free. Printing. It’s Free. You know, I don’t have to pay anything. It’s really awesome. Concerning the academic aspect, I like the library. I’ve never seen, all my life, this kind of library. There are two libraries or maybe more. And there are digital libraries. At school I am so confident because at Lehigh, the teachers give you the opportunity to create, to bring your thoughts. This is really interesting. Back home there, when I was a student, sometimes, some teachers would make you feel stupid. So, too often, you don’t want to take initiatives. I’ve never had the opportunity to do what I really wanted to. In our universities, the teachers just come into the classroom and give you something to go and learn. The teacher reads for us and then teaches what he reads but here we read ourselves. It’s really, really interesting. What we call in my country, “extra academic activities,” like student of the month, communities organizing breakfast events, it’s not something we have in my country. In my country we just go to school. When you’re done you go back home. If you have friends you can spend time with them. If you don’t have any you stay in your room. Learning is not just the books. I usually say I never learn from books. I learn more from experience. That’s why you see me joining the ISS trips sometimes. I learn 100 times faster from what I see, what I experience myself than what I read in the books. I’m really visual and I’m critical when I see something. It’s what I like most, That social part of university. This does not exist in my country. Here we have conferences! Anyone can go. There are so many things. And I love the reading and hard work. I guess, in my country we also work hard but we really take more time to play.
Q: Describe what daily life is like for you in Ivory Coast.
A:At weekdays, I work very hard. I really don’t have time to play a lot like most people in my country. I also study. I’m kind of a self-learner, independent learner. I look for what I don’t have access to in my country in ordinary schools or universities. I try to find out a way to learn like on the internet for example. I go to my job, my school. Usually I get out in the morning at 6 and I get back at 8pm. So at weekdays I really don’t have time but at weekends I like hanging out with my friends. The popular culture in my country is staying at the pubs. If you visited me in my country, one of things I would do is take you to a pub. We like going to pubs with our friends. At home I watch movies with my family. We often travel in the country with my friends. Each of us takes his family and we travel to the other cities in the country. We usually stay at a hotel for the weekend. The rest of my time, I usually spend it on my computer. I want to learn this and that. I never play computer games because using this technology, for me, is already fun.
Q: What do you miss most about your home country?
A:My friends and the food, and, above all, my family. I have an 8 month old son. Apart from that I feel very comfortable here. My friends are really interesting. Here, apart from my personal relationship, whatever I want I can have it. Like technology, I have access to technology so I don’t miss the technology in my country. I like videos and photography, you know, you’ll see me doing it. Here I have access to more sophisticated cameras, so that’s even better. But my culture, my people, this is typically what I miss. We are a very community based culture. We don’t live alone. At my home I have my wife, my son and I have some nephews or some cousins with whom I play sometimes whenever I can. I talk, you know. Here you don’t really have time to stay with friends, even at weekends. If you go shopping for a day you lose so many things. I travel on weekends, from Friday to Sunday and I come back Sunday evening. It’s okay. But here, I’m not sure I can do that. Time is so precious here.
Q: If someone was going to visit the Ivory Coast, what would you tell them to do there?
A:The first thing to do is to visit our beaches. It’s sunny there. You would love to be on the beach because there you can have fresh breeze. And the second thing is to go out at night. Nightlife is wonderful. Visit some of the hot places in my country at night. Not in the day. During the day everybody is sleeping. Everybody goes out at night. The most famous place is called Yopougon or "Yop city." It’s were you can find anything. Nightclubs, like Broadway, a very small traditional Broadway. You would be shocked because there is no place to even park your car because there’s no way to drive through all of those people.
Q: What do you like about American culture?
A:American culture, from my opinion, I don’t know if what I say is true or not, you see I’m a hard worker in my country. I work hard but I don’t have any access to infrastructure to do what I want to. And I don’t have any acknowledgement for working hard. But I think here, if you work hard, you can make a good life. If you sleep, okay, you will be sleeping. I have the impression that people who work hard in America can achieve something. In my country, hard work is not really valued. Maybe if you have support of the political party in power, you can achieve something. I am happy because I got the Fulbright Scholarship from hard work. Maybe the USA, it’s not perfect, but if you work hard you can get something.
Q: Did you join in any activities held by ISS and what was your impression?
A:I join different activities, like international week. I even presented my country during international week. I usually come to the Global Union Eat and Greet and some other activities. I go on trips. As I was saying, I learn more when I see something or when I live something. So what I missed from my education in my country is actually what you are doing. You know, that’s why I say I like traveling in my country because it’s what I miss. We don’t have the opportunity to travel a lot because it’s expensive for our living standards. Even going to Allentown is a big opportunity for me. I really like activities specifically if we are going outside of Lehigh. Like DC or New York, these are my favorite.
Q: Is there anything else you would like everyone to know?
A:You know, that’s what I said in the beginning. What I knew about America is what I saw in movies. What most people know about Africa or my country is what they see in newspapers or news. CNN would never show Ivory Coast if there was no gun shooting there. I just want people to know that in our countries, we’re not always fighting. Some people I’ve met here sometimes think, not trying to be cruel or anything, “since you are from Africa, you are very poor, there are a lot of diseases and conflicts there”. Yet, our country men are happy and lively. Traditionally Ivoirian’s are very peaceful and hospitable people, very traditional people. In my community, for example, if you came to my home, and I had a bed and a room it would be left to you and my wife and I would sleep in another room. This you will not do in America here. We sometimes feel shocked in my country we see in movies friend sleeping on the sofa. We think, “Wow! He sleeps on the sofa? He’s the friend. He should have more attention.” So I would tell my children to leave their room for my friend. I guess this is not possible in western civilization.