AADS Yoruba Students Receive the Fulbright-Hayes Award
Posted: July 9, 2014
My 2013 Yoruba Fulbright Summer Fellowship in Nigeria by LOLA SHONAIKE
As the summer before my senior year, I had originally planned to get an internship in the United States for the summer. I had several offers but when I was offered the Fulbright Fellowship for the Yoruba GPA program, I had chosen it. It is a decision I will never regret. The program is an experience that is unforgettable and will always be a part of me. I recommend it to anyone and everyone who would love to learn about Yoruba culture or just to get out of their comfort zone. It’s also teaches you about the Yoruba language and culture way more than any book can.
When I first arrived to Nigeria, I was scared and very intimidated. I heard many stories of foreigners being kidnapped and watched lot of African movies where people do juju to harm people. Yet as a person from the Yoruba tribe, I had a desire to learn my culture and my language. To my shock, my ridiculous fears had not come true. The first couple of days in Nigeria was a little rough. In Nigeria, power outages happen frequently. When the lights went out, It would take at least thirty minutes for the internet to be fully functional again, so I had a tough time without facebook. Also, the bathroom, I had you had to flush it down, and no laundry machine in my house. Despite these differences, I got over it in a couple of days, because I found a pleasurable fun in Nigeria that you couldn’t get in America. In Nigeria, I would often stroll with my host sister and my friends that I made at UI. The scenery in Nigeria is so effortlessly beautiful. The palm trees, the casual waterfalls everywhere, and people smiling. Also, I loved shopping in Nigeria, everything was so cheap. I bought a lunch packed with rice, dodo, chicken, moinmoin, and beans for about 66 cents. There are so many much more things, I want to describe but it would take a textbook to describe how rich Nigeria is. The culture, the food, the music, and the people were amazing. I was so blessed to meet many of the people, my teachers and professors have become like family to me. I went to Osun Osogbo, a place some historians claim to be lost city of Atlantis because they refuse to accept black people could create it. When I went there, the place was so beautiful, it was breathtaking that this was ancient Nigeria. Also, I went to Ife, heart of Yorubaland, where I met a babalawo (a spiritual diviner), who I deeply feared but now is gone. I also went to Olumo rock, Idanre Hill, Erin Ijesha, etc.
In class, we could only speak Yoruba, and people who interacted with us were told to only speak Yoruba to us. When I got there, I learned that the Yoruba I had known was the Ijebu dialect, so it was nice to learn the standard Yoruba. I struggled the first couple of weeks, but as time went on, I found myself more comfortable talking in Yoruba than English. Also, I learned to love how Yoruba was such a poetic language, that I could name something I wanted. For example, Church is ile Ijosin, “house of worship” or “ile iwasun” (house of sermon). Yet, I often cracked the joke church is ile ibusun “house of place to sleep” since so many people slept during the Pastor’s sermon of the church I went to. My Yoruba had definitely significantly improved. Also in Nigeria, fifty Naira is called “Better life”. Those were some fun cultural things I got to learn. Also at the end of the program, we had to write a ten page research paper in Yoruba on a subject of our choice. This was amazing because I got not only to research towards my major but I was improving in my own language at the same time. It was difficult but finishing that paper was amazing. It is funny because at the beginning of the program I couldn’t see myself completing the paper or speaking in Yoruba more than I speak English. Although my Yoruba is not perfect, I was able to master the “GB” consonant, a problem I had struggled with before.
The day I left Nigeria, was the most painful experience of my life. The people there had become my family. The culture had become my lifestyle. I loved it. I am so glad that Professor Afolabi had pushed me into doing it. I definitely learned a lot more about Nigeria and Yoruba culture than you can ever get in reading a textbook.