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Humans of Drake: Joel Afriyie

Highlighting the stories of Drake students and faculty.


For senior Joel Afriyie, the start of the semester signals the bittersweet end of an era. A triple major in computer science, mathematics and data analytics, he plans to finish his final year strongly before leaving Drake to acquire his PhD in computer science.

But academia isn’t the extent of his talents.

Afriyie actively works on his other interests, which include music, neuroscience, fitness, nutrition, language-learning and Japanese culture, specifically manga and anime.

“I love that stuff to death,” Afriyie said.

Among his Drake career highlights stands his semester abroad in Nishinomiya, Japan. After spending three semesters learning the Japanese language on campus and participating in Drake’s Japanese club, he decided it was time to put his passion to the test.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Japan ever since I was a kid,” Afriyie said. “It was really daunting, but it was also a really fun time.”

There he was able to fully exercise his love for language with a Japanese host family. In turn, this effort transformed his conception of the culture he was living in.

“Learning different languages is so cool,” Afriyie said. “I think going abroad really opened my eyes to learning new languages, not necessarily for the sake of just conversation, but for the sake of actually diving deep into a culture. In my opinion, you can’t really understand Japanese culture without understanding their language.”

While living in Japan, Afriyie generally found Japanese people to be quite reserved and shy. Opinions are generally kept to the individual, and there’s a particular way for a person to speak his or her mind. This is reflected, he said, in the Japanese language.

“There’s a word for that in Japanese,” Afriyie said. “It means essentially that your basic perception of the world is different than your inner face, which is your opinion. So, you should present yourself according to how everyone else is acting. Because they’re very collectivist, they’re a collectivist society, so your own individual opinions don’t necessarily matter. It’s about the group’s opinion. So when you’re speaking Japanese, you have to really consider that. There’s hierarchies in the language.”

The Drake community has also allowed Afriyie to develop his affection for music production.

An ex-rapper from a high school hip-hop group and a former Drake Choir member, Afriyie said he tends to stick mostly to the production side of music these days.

“I make drum and bass music specifically,” Afriyie said. “I say EDM because everyone knows what EDM is, but EDM is an umbrella term, so underneath that there’s drum and bass music.”

Apart from producing this style of music, he’s also created hip-hop tracks to back up independent artists within Drake’s student body.

For Afriyie, much has changed in the last three years. However, he says it’s all been for the better.

“The person that I am is very different than when I came into college,” Afriyie said. “I didn’t really have a lot of interesting things that I was doing. I was a little bit more of a recluse. When I came here I got involved quickly, and because of that, I was able to evolve into the person that I am.”

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