From the Ivory Coast to the East Coast

Part of the Dalhousie Difference series

- May 17, 2013

Student Rufus Alubankudi. (Photo from video shoot)
Student Rufus Alubankudi. (Photo from video shoot)

As the first member of his family to attend university, Rufus Alubankudi knows a thing or two about trail-blazing. But what really sets the third-year Chemical Engineering student apart is the adversity he has overcome on the road from Africa’s Ivory Coast to Dalhousie.

The 12th of 17 siblings, Alubankudi has always had his eye on the prize – namely, a career as a medical surgeon. “I’ve wanted to be a surgeon since I was in elementary school,” he says. “I was inspired by the story of Dr. Ben Carson, who became famous for his ground-breaking work separating conjoined twins. His story is inspiring to me because Dr. Carson grew up in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, where he overcame poverty and adversity. And now he’s a director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.”

The first step towards realizing his dream has been to come to Canada and Dalhousie to pursue his undergraduate degree. “I chose Dalhousie because it is a very international university and there is a strong African community in Nova Scotia,” he says. “I thought Nova Scotia would be a little like the Ivory Coast because it’s surrounded by water – but I didn’t count on the temperature!”

He also didn’t count on having to work almost full-time in order to cover his living expenses while enrolled as a full-time Science student, though “I did receive an entrance scholarship of $1,500 the first year and a bursary in second year,” says Alubankudi, who switched to the Engineering program in second year.

“However, as time went on, I was finding it increasingly difficult to balance my full-time studies with work. It got to the point where I couldn’t realistically sustain myself here in Canada any longer and I was resigned to going back to Africa with only a diploma in Engineering.”

Receiving the Slaight Family Scholarship has literally meant the difference between realizing his dream of a Dalhousie education – or not.

“All I can do is sincerely express my gratitude to the donor,” says Alubankudi. “This scholarship has literally made a world of difference to me.”

This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at


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