Rebecca Bacon Ehlers
The first time I met Alieu Sanneh, he had just finished a full day of classes and taken the commuter rail out to the suburbs to meet us, but he arrived with the demeanor of someone who’d just finished a cup of coffee and was ready to start the day. As I’ve gotten to know him better it’s become clear that this wasn’t out of the ordinary for Alieu; he is a full time PhD student who also manages to work and maintain a wide network of friendships on two continents; exhaustion seems to roll off him like water from a duck.
Having moved to St. Louis from The Gambia in 2014, Alieu has completed his masters and the better part of a PhD in International Studies and Political Science. His concentration is in African politics.
Alieu’s deep understanding of the two cultures he’s lived in seems to have its roots in the relationships he’s formed throughout his journey. It doesn’t take long speaking with Alieu to observe the way his experience of this country has been profoundly shaped by the person he considers his American grandmother. After meeting her through a friend who is also her grandson, her house became a refuge for him through the hardships he endured as a new arrival in the States. It’s a surprising connection for either of them to have made and yet, when you see them together, it feels almost inevitable.
In the conversation below, Alieu reflects candidly on, among other things, his journey to the US, his experience as a student of political science in this country’s current era, and his enduring ties to the place he was raised.