Dija Diouf of Senegal Follows her Dream to Fairfield
Think back to your childhood and the excitement you felt when your parents would come home with a special gift. While most kids’ eyes would light up when that gift would be the newest action figure or doll, Khadidiatou "Dija" Diouf was excited by a different ‘toy’ her father gave her: a medical kit.
“I had my gloves and my little scissors,” Diouf remembers. “Any injuries with my family I would go and try to fix people.”
It was right then when Diouf knew her dream was to become a doctor, and became obsessed with the field.
“I called my dad a doctor, I don’t know why because he wasn’t a doctor,” Diouf said with a slight smirk. “He worked in the medical field for the government but not a doctor. But I have an uncle who is a doctor and I just grew up with that sense that I wanted to be in the medical field.”
But Diouf still had to make that dream become a reality. In order to accomplish her goal, she knew that she would have to one day move away from her native Senegal to study in the United States, and that this opportunity would come through basketball.
Recruiters started following Diouf in 2008, and were looking at her progress both in school and on the court. One recruiter proposed that she move to Chicago, to go to a high school that would get her basketball career started.
“First my parents said ‘no’,” Diouf said. “I said, ‘this is a lifetime opportunity and I have to take it because I love basketball and I want to play at the highest level.’”
Diouf still remembers the exact day when she moved to the States on June 21, 2011 which became the next step on her path to achieving her goals.
She enrolled in Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, but still did not speak English. So, before she could take any classes, ‘Dija’ (as she tells people to call her because too many people mispronounce her first name) joined an intense ESL course to learn the basics of the language.
“It was very, very hard,” Diouf said. “My first year was horrible. There were a lot misunderstanding between people, and classes were hard. It was hard at first but people helped me trying to understand, and being very patient with me.”
At first Diouf decided to attend Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) for college, but after one season decided to transfer to Fairfield.
Four years after picking up the English language, Diouf has become one of the most well spoken players on the team and has obtained a 3.6 GPA during her first semester at Fairfield.
Never forgetting where she came from, Diouf is using her role as a Division I athlete to try and help some of the kids in Senegal who did not have the opportunity to leave for the States. She and Head Coach Joe Frager have talked about the opportunity of sending equipment and shoes to Senegal to help out her country.
“My old club will need these items because there are kids over there who love to play basketball and love to go to school, but their parents don’t have the money to afford shoes or jerseys,” Diouf said. “It doesn’t matter how little or how much I can actually send to them, it is just to help some kids.”
The desire to help others has kept Diouf on her path to one day enter the medical field. She says she is currently debating on whether to enter the field of pediatrics or dentistry. This current path to attain one of those field has involved moving away from her parents to a different continent, learning a second language, and enrolling in three different schools in three different states in three years, but it is all worth it for Dija.
“This is what I want to do,” Diouf said. “I want to do biology, I want to go to medical school. As much as I love basketball, there has to be something for me after, because you never know, you can get injured and have to stop it. So, I already set my mind, this is what I want to do, this is the career that I want to pursue and no matter what I will try my hardest to get it done.”