Biana Speed is an undergraduate student at UW-Madison studying biology. During the summer of 2018 she traveled to Nigeria through funding from a FLAS award to further her study of the Yoruba language. In this AFRICA IN OUR LIVES, Biana discusses her experience in Nigeria and explains why undergraduate students should consider applying for FLAS awards.
Field of Study: Biology with a certificate in African Cultural Studies
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
What made you want to study Yoruba?
Living in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago with the majority being Black Americans, Africans predominantly from Nigeria, Ghana, and Ethiopia, as well as people from Southeast Asia, I was able to develop many interpersonal relationships that allowed me to get a glimpse of the world on a micro social level. With this new perspective, I strived to use all the knowledge and information gained by simply living in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country to continue to explore different cultures and identities while creating social change. With my neighborhood being so diverse, I soon realized it was my responsibility to understand and immerse myself in different cultures, so that I am able to understand and connect with people who are different from me.
Tell us some highlights of your experience in Nigeria.
I had the opportunity to study the Yoruba language at the Univeristy of Ibadan, one of the first and oldest universities in Ibadan, Nigeria. I also had the rare opportunity to meet Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Akande, who is the King of all of Yorubaland, to the extent that he has presidential status in Nigeria.
Why should other undergraduates apply for FLAS awards?
The FLAS awards helped me cover so many expenses throughout my program. UW-Madison did not offer a study abroad program in Nigeria so I searched until I came across the Yoruba Group Abroad Program by Fulbright. While Fulbright covered my expenses in Nigeria in terms of housing and food, I was still faced with the burden of a large program fee and transportation. FLAS was not only able to cover my program fee for a program not affiliated with UW but also aided in my transportation and the process of receiving my visa.
What advice would you give undergrads who are on the fence about applying?
There is no harm in applying. While there is quite a bit of essay writing, it’s all worth it when you are able to travel and thoroughly explore different world perspectives without worrying about the burden of expenses. Definitely do it!
How has this experience benefitted you in pursuing your future career goals?
In order to connect with people far beyond the surface level, dedicating the time and energy to understanding different cultures that exist in my hometown and the many values of those cultures was an absolute must for me. I decided to major in Biology on a pre-med track to Dermatology in hopes of assuring that not only the people within my community are aware of issues that are affecting them socially, but also assuring that my community has people they can trust to handle their needs both individually and holistically. I think this experience was a jump start for me in understanding the cultures of the people that I intend to give back to.
Published by Aberdeen Leary