Senior year of college was the defining moment of my life. I was part of the glorious graduating class of 2014. As the president of the African Students Association, I embodied the American Dream. In just four years, I had gone from getting accepted into the competitive nursing program to double-majoring in economics and political science, and eventually managing to graduate Magna Cum Laude.
My post-undergraduate plans included either pursuing a doctorate in economics, getting some work experience in corporate America, or enrolling into the accelerated nursing program. To my friends, the opportunities were endless and I had it all figured out. The truth is, I had no clue what I was doing and was desperately searching for my purpose.
Why am I in America?
How many times will I attend conferences and complain about what the white man had done to us instead of finding solutions?
How long will I remain a guest in another man's land?
These questions motivated me to document young Africans’ perspectives on Reverse Brain Drain. I wanted to know if they carried the burden of going back home and how they coped with with it.
Before filming, we drafted a survey and one of the key questions was, “Do you plan to stay in America or return to your country of origin?”
Below were some of the answers:
“Returning to my country of origin is my goal. I would like to bring back my knowledge and the experience that I got from the U.S. to participate in the development of my country and the African continent.” Estelle, Ivory Coast.
“I plan on going back to my country and use the education and knowledge that I have gotten here to help my country advance. We young people are the future of Africa we need to bring our ideas and knowledge to our countries for their prosperities.” Djigui, Guinea Conakry.
"Even though I was born here (America) I'm Ghanaian by heritage. I do plan on moving to Ghana after I finish my Masters and get some years in with the workforce. I feel as though we, the young generation have to do things a lot differently from our parents and make sure we don't stay in this country as long as they did. We forget the mission here was to gain opportunity, accumulate wealth, head back to our country and allow it to prosper, and instead we are working towards building up America. What about Africa?" Debbie, Ghana.
Prior to reading these responses, I believed I was the only one yearning to go back to home. But after reading over 60 responses, it became evident that the new generation of Africans was ready to dedicate their skills, talent, and knowledge to building the continent.
'Dziffa, it will really suck if after all these you do not follow your heart.'
'I will, Akaniyene, I will go back home one day.'
'Ok, let's get back to the set. What would the younger Dziffa tell you if you met her today?'
'She would remind me of the fears of unemployment I had living under a Highly Indebted Poor Ghana as a child and how I dreaded being another unemployed statistic in some World Bank research. She would want to know what my contribution to the continent is, now that I have gotten away.'
We finished the shooting the video but the last question Akaniyene asked haunted me.
Would she really expect this much of me if we met today?
After all, I am 22 years old, broke, and freshly out of college. What do I have to offer Ghana?
I haven’t been to Ghana since I left 10 years ago; I have no friends and no clue how things work there.
'You have reached Burnside Avenue.' The announcement on the 4 train brought me back to reality. Clearly, graduating college had given me more freedom than I could handle. Instead of busily searching for jobs or preparing for graduate school, I was entertaining my fantasies of moving to Africa.
I made a mental note to start applying for jobs and fellowships. I will go back home one day, but this was not the time.
Share this post