Sory’s Story: An Interview with Blake’s French Intern

Raine Robichaud, Staff Writer

Endless ambition and passion are two of the many wonderful traits of Blake’s very own French intern, Sory. These same traits are responsible for leading Sory into our lives here in Minnesota. French teacher Ms. Cassavante recognizes his unbelievable perseverance in his quest to teach and learn in the United States, “Sory went to extreme lengths to do everything he could to help this to happen. He did everything in his power spiritually, physically—everything he could possibly think of to make this happen.” Blake is extremely fortunate to have Sory within its walls this year, so please, read on to learn about his incredible journey.

Spectrum: What led you here? To Blake, Minnesota, the United States?

Sory: “I had to apply to a program called Amity Institute, based on cultural exchange. I wanted to improve my English, so I thought it would be good to apply. I applied in September 2011, and they approved my application, sent me an email, and I had to do an interview… They checked my diploma, wrote a report, and sent it to the program in the U.S. saying everything is ok. They processed it and found Blake for me. They sent me an email to let me know I have a school, and I had to pass an interview with the school, with [Ms. Cassavante]. I was so scared. When Michele called me on the phone, I was so afraid because her French was so good. I was told not to worry about it because Americans only speak one language [so he thought she wouldn’t be good at French]. I dropped the cord unintentionally, and cut the communication.

‘Then I had to call her back. All my life depended on that. We started to do an hour interview, and after that she said there would have to be another interview with Silvana [Ms. Dessi-Olive]. One week after that, I got a message saying they accepted me, and sent me a file to go to the embassy. This is the last part, and it was very hard. I had to go there and pass an interview to get a VISA on August 18. Before I went to the embassy, I went to the south of Senegal to see a marabout, a person who can tell the future and read signs. When something’s important in Africa, we go to see those people. When you go to see these people, you have to pay, then they give you a potion, which you use to cleanse yourself. I took a very long trip to get there by car [443 kilometers/260 miles with bumpy roads, took from 4am to midnight], but it was very important for me to go there. He gave me everything I need and things to do. He told me to cross a road and put sticks and eggs in the middle and jump forwards and backwards. After that I left the eggs and sticks there. I couldn’t sleep all night before the interview, and I prayed.

‘I didn’t want to take a bus [to the embassy], so I took a taxi, which is very expensive. I paid a taxi to go to the U.S. embassy, but the taxi broke down. I had to be there at 8:00, but where I live is very far from the U.S. embassy. When the taxi broke down, I couldn’t wait for him to fix it. I asked the driver for my money back or for half, but the driver said no. It wasn’t in my interest to stay and talk, so I took another taxi, and when I arrived there, I was the fourth person in the line, which is good. I arrived early in the morning for an 8:15 appointment, and…waited in line for the embassy to open. There was a guard who opened a door, and then you have to sign your name. We had to go through a security check. They first ask you what language you want to do the interview in, but you have to choose English, so you have a better chance.

‘The other people who got interviewed in French were denied. When I went to the U.S. embassy, I met the official there, and was prepared for the questions. The way they call you is…sometimes they can’t pronounce your name correctly. When they say your name, it’s like it’s another name, so I had to listen carefully. They asked me “what is your purpose in the U.S.?” [The most important question is] “are you going home after?” but he didn’t ask me about that. I just wanted to improve my English for a year to become an English teacher in Senegal. A pink ticket means that you’re approved. When they give you a white file, you’re denied. Instead of giving me the pink ticket, he forgot and gave me the white one. I thought, “oh my god, I was denied a visa. I’m not going to the U.S.!” because he forgot to give me the pink one. When I got out of the embassy, the first thing I did was call my mom. I was so happy. I also had to see a doctor about my health, and I had to pay for that. He had to sign a report and send it back to Amity. This took from September-August. One year of preparing.”

Spectrum: What are your personal reasons for choosing to teach French/becoming a teaching intern? Why did you choose to become an intern?

Sory: “I’m here to learn about American civilization and language, and at the same time I am bringing my culture to the U.S.”

Spectrum: What are your plans for after your internship?

Sory: “I intend to go back home because my ambition is to be an English teacher in my home country. For that I have to take a test to be a teacher [competitive entrance exam]. And my stay in the U.S. will help me a lot because it’s in French and English. One year in the U.S. will help a lot.”