Each year, thousands of African students are admitted to American universities. With their move to a new environment, they are sometimes faced with unique problems that may affect their education. Most universities encourage African students to form or join an association in which they share their experiences -- with the aim of collectively solving problems. But spokespeople for many African associations say their groups have little clout.
One student, Lynda Ekefumi of Nigeria, wants to change that. She’s a college student in Florida and the president of an umbrella association that brings together all the African student groups.She that the concept of the African Students Association Convention "is to unite all the African students in America, for all Africans to have a united front. Basically, where African students can have a global voice….”
The organization ASAC – African Students Association Convention -- is made up of more than 300 different associations from colleges across the United States. It recently held its first annual convention. Participants discussed ways to unite and present a stronger voice to their respective universities. They also talked about taking part in activities that showcase their African heritage -- and about issues common to all international students in American institutions. “What we did during the convention was to discuss challenges students face, such as the budget from their respective school…how expensive it is to attend school….” She says.
Ekefumi says that African students number in the thousands but they have not had an official organization that links them. Her idea to form the umbrella association was well received, even though initial attendance was low because of different school schedules. She has been inundated with requests from African students from various universities to make the conference into an annual event. “…We were able to research over 300 associations and each of them, the members range from 70-95….” She adds.
African students face challenges like tuition, which is often higher for international students than for American ones. And foreign students may have a hard time fitting into the new culture. Such associations form a support network that helps them cope and also helps form the basis for their professional life after school. Ekefumi says many African companies are seeking out and recruiting members of these associations and offering them jobs on the continent.
Ekefumi hopes they will soon start outreach programs to help provide information to African high school students who want to attend American universities, since most of them don’t know about the application process or about what to expect once they join school.