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Fulbright Student Studies in Burkina Faso

The Fulbright program is the US government’s international exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries. Kathryn “Katie” Boswell was a Fulbright fellow who examined the reintegration of Burkina Faso labor migrants who returned to their country after being forced to leave the Ivory Coast due to political unrest there. She explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty how the migrants are readjusting to life in Burkina Faso.

“It varies on how long they were in Cote d’Ivoire. Often times people who were there 50 years, the adjustment was little more difficult. It also varied depending upon the kinds of networks they maintained while migrants. Some people had been more successful in remaining in contact with families in Burkina Faso than others. Others have been successful as migrants to invest in Burkina Faso and they were able to return with financial resources, and so this enable them to readjust as well.”

But Kathryn says because migration between the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso has been going on for so long and taken on so many forms, it’s difficult to generalize on whether returning migrants are adapting easily.

“When they arrive in Burkina Faso, there is always a distinction, I think between those who’ve been to Cote d’Ivoire and those who have not been. This can often time be expressed in sort of a joking manner, but often times it can be serious. It can be serious depending upon the links maintained between these two countries.”

Kathryn, who is currently a doctoral scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, did her fellowship in Ivory Coast from 1999 to 2000 and in Burkina Faso from 2004 to 2005. She says she admires the people of the West Africa sub-region.

“I’ve always been impressed and excited every time I’ve gone to West Africa. I spent some time in North Africa, and despite the fact that I enjoyed my stay in North Africa, I was pulled back to West Africa. I enjoyed my time in Cote d’Ivoire, and I am saddened but also excited by the fact that I’ve been able to work in Burkina Faso. The Burkina Faso people are an extremely resilient and generous people, and I only hope that my research will be able to communicate that to other people.”

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