Fatoumata Binta Diallo, of Lynn, served as the undergraduate commencement speaker for Salem State University’s class of 2022 at the Bertolon School of Business ceremony on May 19. In her address, Diallo highlighted her experience as an international student from Guinea who first came to the United States in 2017.
Upon arriving in the U.S. at age 18, Diallo spent six months in Salem State’s English as a Second Language program before being accepted to the university as an undergraduate student and choosing to study business administration. Diallo is now employed as a full-time recruiting consultant at Barton Associates, a staffing company in Peabody. She plans to attend graduate school in the future.
“It was really hard at the beginning. I just came from a different country with a different culture. I couldn’t speak English. The only thing I knew was ‘Hello’,” said Diallo, “But we speak multiple languages in my country, so it’s easy for me to catch languages.”
Diallo said she had not considered speaking at commencement at first, and that she felt more comfortable speaking in front of international students. It was the staff at the Center for International Education (CIE) who invited her to address the international students’ graduation and later suggested that she apply to represent the graduates of the Bertolon School of Business as their commencement speaker.
Sharing her experiences as an international student, Diallo addressed how she adjusted to a different teaching style, and how she got help from the faculty and staff at Salem State. The CIE helped her choose classes and held many events to get her involved in the community. Diallo also referred to her advisor, Management Chairperson Leah Ritchie, as one of her biggest supporters on campus.
“She was always understanding what I was going through,” said Diallo of Ritchie. “I had her phone number so that I could call her anytime.”
In her speech, Diallo specially dedicated the honor to her parents who have guided and inspired her to achieve her goals. Diallo’s father passed away three years ago when she had just begun her bachelor’s degree.
“It was a click for me. After that I started to apply for jobs because I had to support myself, and then I got an on-campus job working for the library,” said Diallo, “My father kept a promise to be alive for my graduation, but God decided otherwise, so it is my turn to promise him to carry on his spirit and all the knowledge and wisdom he had taught me.”