What is your DIR in life?
If you want to know what DIR stands for me, continue reading.
D as Departure
In the mind of a lot of senegalese and African young people, leaving the continent was the only way to strive for a better life and to support their family back home.
In the late nineties, I graduated from High school and I also was obsessed with going abroad, the magic land of abundance and joy, where everything was great.
Indeed all I knew from western countries at that time were mainly from 2 sources of information.
The first source of information was the media, mainly magazines and television. On TV, I used to watch movies and TV shows where everything was so beautiful.
In the magazines, I would imagine buying some furniture from the Ikea catalog. All the people featured were happy and smiling. And the price was not very expensive as it was in “francs” and our money was in “CFA”, a currency we inherited from our colonisation.
Everything seemed so cheap in “Francs” and I did not catch at that time that 1 Franc = 100 CFA.
The second source of information was the people coming for holidays from Europe, the USA or other western countries.
They had clearer skin prior to their leave. They were always bearing gifts for all the family.
Their clothes were beautiful and clean and they had the latest shoes that I would see the ads for on TV.
They were cultivating the myth of abundance of the west and I was impressed.
During my high school studies, I had a dream that one day, I will also go to Europe or the USA to be like those on TVs or those coming back.
Those two sources of information were the “western dream”.
In 2000, I left Dakar, Senegal to come to France for my engineering studies and mostly to fulfill my “western dream”.
I as Initiation
I have always been fascinated by the magic of flying. Then in 2003, I joined the French Engineering school ISAE (Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace).
After my engineering studies, I worked as a subcontractor for Airbus and then joined the company in 2012.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of my arrival in France. In this timeframe, I learned a lot, failed a lot and achieved a lot.
As a lot of foreign students in France come from modest families, we had a very limited amount of money to live.
Lots of them combine studying with small jobs to be able to go through their studies. This can explain the failure rate among that population to pursue their studies after.
I was lucky enough to be granted a scholarship from the Senegalee government to study in France. I still needed to work during the summer holidays to save for the next year.
I failed a lot also. I failed multiple times before I was able to be hired by Airbus as an internal employee. Even before that as a foreingn student, not part of the EU (European Union), I struggled a lot to find a job in France.
As a lot of non EU students, after I got my engineering degree,I had to enrol in some studies each year to be able to have my “titre de séjour” or resident permit. Then I will go search for a job and I will be told that I cannot be hired because I did not have a permanent resident permit.
That was the reason why I hated the period from September to November. It was the period where I had a lot of stress to know whether or not I will find a registration to a university, then make sure that I go to the administration to apply for a resident permit and hoping that it will work.
I achieved a lot. I achieved to study while being far away from my family and having to make all the decisions on my own
I was able to enrol in an French engineering school where most of my peers come from families of engineers, doctors and highly educated people.
I was able to be hired by Airbus thanks to my hard work and thanks to the support of colleagues and friends.
Most importantly, I was able to have my own family, here in Toulouse, France.
R as Return
In the 20 years I have been in France, I only returned to Dakar, Senegal, 3 times, in 2006, 2008 and 2020.
From 2000 to 2006, I was mainly focused on my studies. The scholarship I had and my savings were barely enough to live on. And I could not imagine going back empty handed during that period. So I saved to go back and share a little bit of the “western dream”.
Then I went back in 2008, 2 years later to visit again.
Then there is a gap of 12 years where I did not go back to visit my parents and my brothers and sisters who were still living there.
It all happened because of a difference in opinion I had with my father. Indeed in 2008, when I went back, I was 28. My father thought that it was a great time that I got married. So he wanted me to be engaged with a “good” muslim girl and then come back marry her later.
What I did not tell him at that time was that I had a French girl friend in Toulouse that I was dating since 2004.
I did not have enough courage at that time to tell him my truth. So I kept my mouth shut and just waited to come back to France. I promised myself that I will not come back to Senegal single again, no matter how long it takes.
It took me 10 years to get married, then I became a dad.
This is where everything changed. My wife is a French white woman, our son has 2 cultures: Senegalese and French.
It was important for me that he knows where I came from, his black side.
This was what gave me the courage to go back to Dakar, Senegal beginning of 2020.
During this 12 years period, I failed to find the courage to face my fears and to accept that I will not have the same life as those who are married to the “right” person as defined by their home society.
I was driven by my anger against my father for trying to push on me something that he thought was the best for me.
In that period, I missed a lot of opportunities to connect with my parents, my family and my friends.
I missed a lot of opportunities to visit my beautiful country.
I also missed the opportunity to inspire young people in Senegal and show them another narrative.
This narrative aims not at destroying the “western dream”. It aims at inspiring the Sengalese people in particular and the Africans in general to be the creators of the “African Success” in this new digital era.
I cannot wait to work with Saly Pouye, Bamba Fall and his ASEMPA (Association SEnégalaise pour la Promotion des Métiers de l’Aéronautique) initiative to play our part on moving forward the African Aerospace industry which has a lot to offer to the whole world.
From now on, I will not wait 12 years to go back to Dakar, Senegal to connect and contribute.
Because now more than ever, going back rimes with giving back for me.
Did you have a similar experience studying far away from your family?
Do you use going back as a giving back opportunity?
Do you think I should share more stories like this one?
What is your DIR in life?
Leave a comment below.
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You can read my previous article on Why letting the current flow is the cardinal rule of rules ?