Campus Life

African Students On Campus Offer Friendship

The newly formed African Student Association, the newest addition to the international student organizations on campus, has elected Eric Tanifum as its first president. African students at Utah State, in conjunction with the Office of International Students and Scholars, have banded together to make sure their association tracks each incoming student, meets them at the airport, helps them with housing and introduces them to friends. They even introduce them to the strange American food.

"Our education here is very important," Tanifum said. "We want to better learn about the community and American culture. We also want to give people here the chance to know us better. By the time we leave we should have gone through this place and have this place go through us."

Tanifum hails from a family of eight children in Cameroon, which he calls "Africa in miniature."

"It is everything you could imagine finding in Africa, all in one country."

The country starts with the coastline in the south, where the rains fall frequently and hard. The rain forest is farther inland, with tropical birds, chimpanzees and gorillas. The north offers forest and savannah — the grasslands that harbor antelope, zebras, giraffes, lions, tigers and elephants. The northern tip of the country is semi-desert.

"The cities are thickly populated, with a lot of Western influence," said Tanifum. "French and English are the official languages, but pidgin English, a mixture of French, English and local languages, is spoken in the marketplace."

Cameroon is known for its high quality bananas, he said. Other exports include textiles, cocoa, leather, coffee, rubber, palm oil and petroleum.

Small villages dot the countryside, with more than 243 different ethnic groups, each with their own dialect and traditions. Coffee and cocoa are grown on small farms, and religions run the gamut from Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam to traditional, local practices.

Tanifum said that African students, who are mostly congregated in engineering and business information systems, are attracted to Utah State because of the low crime rate.

"Some of the pictures that people back home have about America are that it has a high crime rate. Parents feel comfortable sending their children to Logan."

"The religious culture is also comfortable," Tanifum added, alluding to the conservative lifestyle practiced by many African students at Utah State.

"The new association is open to everybody," Tanifum said. "African students are welcome, but so are Americans and all other races of the world."

"People in the Western world, especially here in the U.S., who haven’t had the opportunity to visit Africa or have closer contacts with Africans, have a wrong impression about what Africa really is," said Tanifum. "We hope that through our association we would try to give the right impression and make many more people interested and eager to know more about Africa."

"The pictures you see in the media here are about wars, drought, famine and hunger," the president said. "The picture is that Africa is some strange land where many things are not possible. There are many places in the country where things are good and everyone goes about their normal lives."

The association currently has a membership of over 35 students from Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya, Malawi, DR Congo, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Erethrea and the U.S.

"With our new association, we want to make our presence felt in the community. We’ll know more people and people will know us," Tanifum said.

To that end, African students are planning a festival for Feb. 15, which will feature dancing, drumming, traditional dress and African dishes.

Until then, interested Americans can eat spicy food, learn traditional dances and share experiences at African Student Association get-togethers, scheduled for the second Saturday night of each month.

For more information, call Eric Tanifum at 797-3417 or

Writer: Nadene Steinhoff, 435-797-1429,
Contact: Eric Tanifum, 435-797-3417,

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