"I decided to come to the United States because actually I know it is the world super power and I've always wanted to have some kind of cultural exchange, go to another country or meeting people from other countries. So I've come at least to learn more about the United States and to share my culture and my way of life and our education with the people of the United States. So I am here on a Fulbright scholarship. I am a Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant. I'm teaching Swahili at Fayetteville State University."
That is Diana Awuor and while she is teaching Swahili at Fayetteville State Uuniversity she says many students are just as interested in her country as much as learning the language. "What the students yearn to know actually it is not about the Swahili, they ask me so many questions about the country I come from. You see the American president right now his father is from Kenya so most of the time the students will ask me, 'Is that the country where our president's father was from?' I tell them yes. Then another student asks 'So which tribe are you from?' I tell them I am from the Luo tribe."
"Other questions from my students have been 'So that means you are from that tribe,' 'How do you marry?' 'How do you conduct your weddings?' 'Do you go out on vacations?' I realize the students here just want to know how the world outside there is and another funny thing one of my students asked me, 'Is it true you people when you walk you can meet wild animals like lions and stuff like that?' I tell them the lions and wild animals are in the game reserve. They're in the game park. You cannot walk and meet them. Kenya is a country just like America and like any other country. Life there is normal. The teaching is interesting."
Diana says learning about the culture here has been good, but there is one thing when it comes to the education system in the U-S which she truly loves. "I've noticed that different cultures in terms of greeting and the way people refer to each other you see when you talk to somebody you have to either use the 'Dr', the 'Ms.', the 'Mrs.' you can not just call somebody by the name and the way they treat ladies just astounded me. They respect and are courteous to the ladies. When I am going into the store, a man will stand there and open the door for me. Let me go in and let me go out. It's really interesting."
"But what I've noticed and experienced about the education here, the education in America is not that different from the education in Kenya. We have the 8-4-4 system. We have eight years in primary school. Four years in high school and four years at the college level. So I've come here and I've realize that in America you have year one to year eight which is the primary. Year nine to year eleven which is the high school and then you go to the university. So actually the education system is almost the same as ours," she says. "But what I love most is how transparent an instructor has to be with the student because actually everybody's right is respected in America. That is quite different in my country and I am so sorry to say that because in my country you don't get an answer where a professor or a teacher would have to explain to a student how the student got that grade. In my country they sit and we give you the skeleton, but you have to go look for the flesh. You have to look for the whole thing," she says.
"So my students study so hard, study so widely but they need a syllabus but here you have to be transparent in my Swahili lessons. I have to tell them these are the books we are using, this is where I am going to accept the examinations from, this is how your grading is going to be and I love that."
Diana will return home in May. One favorite Swahili saying she believes in is "Mtaka cha mvunguni, sharti ainame". Mtaka means whoever wants/needs. Cha mvunguni means that which is under the bed. And when you say sharti ainame means you have to bend it down.
Thus, the saying is that if you want something that is under the bed you have to bend. You cannot pick the thing while you are standing. Whoever needs that which is under the bed has to bend. Nothing comes easy in life, hard and determination pays. The sky is never the limit, strive to go way over the skies.You have to move and go under the bed and pick it. It is high time we bend and get what we want."