Kadidia Samassekou’s Story: From Mali to Macomb

William Turkington, Courier Staff

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Four airplane rides and 5,550 miles away lies Mali’s capital city of Bamako, the birthplace of a proud Leatherneck by the name of Kadidia Samassekou.

Samassekou is fluent in English, French and Bambara, which is a local dialect. She first got to put her English skills to use in America when she came to the states for an exchange program in junior high at Colorado’s CIVA Charter High School.

“The first three months were a little hard,” Samassekou said. “It was my first time being away from my family for so long.” The high school she attended was small in size. So small that everyone was familiar with one another, which suited Samassekou. “I always say that CIVA is my first American family,” Samassekou said. “That’s part of the reason why I wanted to come back to the US for college.”

Samassekou thoroughly enjoyed Colorado and all its quirkiness when it came to its bizarre weather patterns and wildlife.

“The weather was very weird. I experienced rain, snow and then sun within two hours. That’s something I would never see in Mali,” Samassekou said. “I have also seen bears walking down the streets. That was pretty shocking.”

Samassekou’s older brother was the one who helped her in her decision to choose Western. He had a friend who majored in chemistry at Western, same as Samassekou, and enjoyed her time here very much.

“The education system here suits me well,” said Samassekou. “I like doing things on my own and asking professors for help when needed.”

Besides being away from family, Samassekou said that the lack of African food in Macomb is one of the hardest parts about going to school in America. She lives off-campus now and can use packaged spices to cook food more preferable to her taste buds, which was often not the case in the dorms.

However, there are some American dishes that Samassekou is quite fond of. “My favorite American dish is meatloaf with baked potatoes,” Samassekou said. “I had that when I was at Paula’s one night. It was delicious.”

The Paula she’s referring to is Paula Rhodes, Samassekou’s host parent in the international neighboring program that Western provides. It pairs up an international student with a local family in the community so that they can feel more at home, become familiar with American customs and have somebody they can go to for help if they need it.

“Participating in the international neighboring program is one of the best decisions I have made,” Samassekou said.

Rhodes took Samassekou to her first football game in America and taught her the rules. The pair have also volunteered together and attended events like the festival of trees, the Altrusa bazaar, the kid’s circus and the steel band concert together.

“She is always there for me,” Samassekou said. “Whenever I need something or I feel a little homesick, I know that I can count on her. She has been a great support and the best part of my experience in Macomb.”

Samassekou got her bachelor in biochemistry with a minor in microbiology here at Western. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry at Western as well. She intends on doing a PhD in environmental chemistry but has not yet chosen a school to do so at.

“I chose environmental chemistry because I want to contribute to the well-being of the people,” said Samassekou. “Water treatment and electrochemical energy storage are the areas that interest me the most.”

After she acquires her PhD, Samassekou plans on staying in America for a few years to get valuable job experience before returning home to Mali. “I need to give back to my country” Samassekou said.

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