Bafode Drame, a native of Senegal in West Africa, initially attended Fordham University in New York to improve his English. Little did he realize that he would end up staying there to pursue a college degree.
"When I got here I applied to different universities," he explains. "At the time I didn’t have all my necessary papers such as my school transcripts to send them to the schools and I had to go to school as well to improve my English. I applied to Fordham. They have this department called the American Language and Culture Institute, I applied there and the experience was overwhelming. It was great."
"At the same time, I was trying to get my papers together to send them to other universities, but after I finished with my program,-- ESOL—English as a Second Language program at Fordham University," he said, "I told myself the experience that I am having right now it is not worth it to change at all so I applied to the school and decided to continue my studies that how I got in."
Growing up in West Africa, Bafode says he dreamed of becoming a businessman or a pilot. Today, he's interested in politics. He says he hopes to be able to use his education to help the people back home in Senegal. "When I was a child it never occurred to me that someday I could be interested in being involved with politics. My dream was to have something that can allow me to travel overseas all over the world because I enjoy meeting other people from different cultural backgrounds. But as I see how the world is changing and things that happen in my country, I have no other choice but to prepare myself and get myself involved in politics so I can change the lives of my people back home."
"That’s how I started to research exactly what will be better for myself," he says. "I found out that IPE – International Political Economy – a more diverse program politics and economics combined together, I found that to be perfect, that’s how I pursue that career."
Bafode is involved in many leadership roles at Fordham University. He is chairman of the student world assembly as well as former vice president of the adult student government. He credits his drive for leadership to one of Africa's most famous leaders.
"Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela! He is my hero," Bafode says.
"The reason why he is my hero is because in South Africa you have many groups of people. You have blacks, white people, you have Indian ... and when Nelson Mandela was in prison, not only he was fighting for the freedom for all, but also when he got out he became president. A lot of people were nervous thinking that this may be pay back time because he was mistreated so bad that he may be the other way around against white people," he says.
"And(Mandela) he stood up and said 'I forgive you,' he said. He forgives what happen to him. What people did to him, however, we should not forget the past. I think that was a very powerful statement," says Bafode. "But the most important thing for me was that speech to bring people together."
"That’s my whole idea," he explains. "Bring people together."
Bafode will graduate in a year. He has clearly planned out what he will do when leaves the university. "After I graduate from Fordham, I am planning to go to KSD—Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and from there I will work over here to gain some experience hopefully for the IMF, or the World Bank or even the State Department here in the U.S.," he says. "My idea is to make as many contacts as possible so that when I go back home I can build a bridge between my country or even the African continent with the rest of the world that is my idea. And I don’t think about those things as just my country. My idea is to have the United States of Africa rather than just individually Senegal, Ivory Coast, or Ghana."
"We can do the same thing that happens in the U.S. We can do the same thing that is happening right now in Europe. Put countries together and become stronger and prosper," says Bafode.
Bafode Drame of Senegal is one of more than 500,000 international students currently enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities.