Tag: bon voyage potluck

Souleymane’s Seldovia Goodbye

| June 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

by Jenny Chissus

SouleymaneIt has been a crazy year of changes for Souleymane Sidibe – who came to Seldovia on September 1, 2013 to attend Susan B English as a Junior.  Souleymane was the second exchange student being hosted by the Haller family for the 2013-2014 school year.

He came to us from Bamako, the capital of Mali, with the YES Exchange Program and was selected as one of only 9 students from his country!  His brother’s friend participated in the program before and thought Souleymane had strong english skills and would be a good candidate for the program.  Once he was selected, the YES program looked for host families – and initially, he was going to be in Oregon, but somehow, thankfully for us, he was switched to come to Alaska!

SouleymaneAydanaParentsWhen he found out he was going to come to Alaska, he looked on Google Maps online and saw it was all white, and he said “I knew it was going to be cold, when all I saw was white and mountains.  I didn’t want to go there!   I was scared of the cold, but after I got here, I understood and it wasn’t that bad, in fact I liked it, and I got used to it!”   The idea of Alaska was totally new, and he didn’t know anyone who has been here before.  He mentioned that most students select California or big cities in the lower 48.  “I think that I was lucky to come here, and experience Alaska!”

SouleymaneBBTourneyChampsWhat will he miss the most?  “I will miss my family here in Seldovia, and high school basketball.”  The main highlight was having a great host family!  He mentioned that it was a lot like home, as he has 2 brothers and 1 sister and his cousins also live next door, so there is always a lot going on in the family home – so he fit right in with the Haller family.  The other highlight for Souleymane on this trip was playing on the basketball team.  They don’t have school sports in Mali like here, all the sports are played in clubs after school, so they don’t have the same team spirit that he enjoyed in Seldovia.  He also broke his leg in 2013, so he hadn’t played at the high school level before, so that was a challenge he enjoyed.

SouleymaneTrackWhat he appreciated most about Seldovia was the small community, and the genuine support and help they offer one another.  It reminded him of home, and his circle of friends and family.  It was surprising to him to see such acceptance and interest folks had in him from the start.  He always felt comfortable and part of the community from the very beginning.  He was very thankful for that!  He enjoyed the community spirit, doing things together, all the support for the SBE teams and the school or other activities.  “I don’t think you would find such a close community in a big city like Anchorage.”

SouleymaneAidanaWhat do you miss the most about Mali?  “I miss the heat.  It wasn’t too bad here though, they say it was a mild winter, so I’m happy about that!” Another thing that was a big adjustment for Souleymane was the school schedule.  In Mali, they study every subject, every year of high school!  So, in order to cover all the subjects, each day of the week is different.  Here, you have 6 classes a day – and it is the same all semester.  In Mali, you have a different schedule each day of the week – but you take all the same subjects every year – they just get harder as you get older!

Who would you like to thank or do you have any other things you’d like to say?  “I want to thank my host family, to the community of Seldovia for accepting me, to my team mates and my friends and my teachers.  Especially Ms Sensenig who helped me a lot in getting the application to go to the special program in Washington DC – I couldn’t have done it without her – she helped me a lot.”

SouleymaneBonVoyageDo you think you will come back to the US, and to Alaska?  “I want to go to college in the US.  I know Alaska, and I like it here, so I would like to come back.  If I get a scholarship for another state, I would consider that too.”   He is planning to study economics at the university level, and was disappointed that we are going to have Economics at SBE next year – as he will miss it!

Souleymane leaves Seldovia on Tuesday the 17th (tomorrow) for Mali, so Tonight, June 16th at 5:30pm – in Grand Haller style – there will be a Bon Voyage Potluck for Souleymane at the Sea Otter Community Center!  Please join us to celebrate a great year, and give him a great sendoff, Seldovia Style!  (Which means lots of great food, fun and laughter – and perhaps a few tears in this situation!)