The Five Most Important Things for a Fulbrighter in Côte d’Ivoire
Here are five things I wish I kept in mind during my Fulbright
Your resources are often out of sight
It's really easy to feel like there is no guidance for a CDI Fulbright. However, if there is any one thing you should do, it is to set a reminder to re-read all and all pre-departure materials from orientation about three to four months in. It can be (and was) really easy to complain that there aren’t general life resources for ETAs, but there is a decent amount. A lot of it is just given to you way too early for anything to really make sense. So, in the third or fourth month, when the reality of how long nine months can be set in, go back and reread the letters, blogs, and powerpoints shared with you. I promise it will save you so much time.
Be intentional about exploring.
You’re not going to make it up to Man or Yakro without being intentional. Look at the national holidays/school breaks and assign little trips or touristy adventures for your time off. Make a bucket list! For places you need to fly to, find free days in the Spring to do it and buy your tickets in October There is so much to do in Abidjan/ Côte d’Ivoire and you’ll get so many suggestions. Write them down as you go.
Be gentle with yourself.
Nine months will simultaneously drag by and disappear in a blink of an eye. Three weeks in, I was worried I was wasting my time here, and three weeks before departure, I still can’t shake that feeling. There is no “right” way to do this program. There is no use comparing yourself with other ETAs, past or present. Just show up for your kids and try something new.
Be intentional about reflection.
Once the sixth month passes, the rest of your time flies by. I tried to make it a habit to journal every week, but even something as simple as journaling once a month or creating three-month goal lists will really help frame your time here. Remember, what’s measured, grows.
Welcome confusion, but do not let that anger you.
Côte d’Ivoire is so very different from the United States, and there are some customs here I don’t think I will ever fully understand. It is easy to get overwhelmed by things we don’t understand, but I encourage you to be okay with not knowing everything.
There’s a saying in Bambara, my parent’s language, that translates to: a log can sit in the river all it wants, but it will never become a crocodile. As guests in the country, even ones that “blend in”, we are constantly experiencing Ivorian culture blend and clash with our own. Be open to feelings and experiences that challenge you, knowing that you can analyze an experience and still feel the same way you did from the start.
I hope this helps guide your time in CDI! Good luck!