West Africa Semester

The Many Stories of Africa

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

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Duration
83 Days
Description

Explore issues of human migration, community development, and Islamic spirituality in a post-colonial context.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2018


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2017


Fall Availability

closed

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

28 Weeks

Fall Begins In

8 Weeks

Land Cost

$12,535


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,310

Dakar

Homestay community

Kolda

Homestay community

Niodior

Kedougou

Thies

Saint Louis

Pilgrimage site

Touba

Program Overview

As you walk down the street in Senegal, people greet you with the word peace and strangers invite you into their homes for a cup of tea.


You can feel Senegal’s famous hospitality, called teranga, the moment you set foot in Dakar, and students are encouraged to leave their pre-conceived identities and stereotypes of “Africa” at home, opening their hearts to the many stories that constitute modern-day Senegal.

Our exploration of Senegalese identity begins in a pirogue, a Senegalese fishing boat, as we cast off for home-stays on an island in the Sine-Saloum Delta. Here, we listen to our home-stay ‘parents’ recount harrowing tales of canoe journeys to Europe that so many make in search of work. We also partner with a local women’s cooperative to replant mangrove trees, and camp on nearby islands, keeping our eyes peeled for the dolphins, manatees, and flamingos that call this unique environment home.

Returning to mainland Senegal, we enter urban home-stays in Kolda. Students confront pressing development issues including health, unemployment, gender, human rights, and education through a series of NGO visits and mentored…

You can feel Senegal’s famous hospitality, called teranga, the moment you set foot in Dakar, and students are encouraged to leave their pre-conceived identities and stereotypes of “Africa” at home, opening their hearts to the many stories that constitute modern-day Senegal.

Our exploration of Senegalese identity begins in a pirogue, a Senegalese fishing boat, as we cast off for home-stays on an island in the Sine-Saloum Delta. Here, we listen to our home-stay ‘parents’ recount harrowing tales of canoe journeys to Europe that so many make in search of work. We also partner with a local women’s cooperative to replant mangrove trees, and camp on nearby islands, keeping our eyes peeled for the dolphins, manatees, and flamingos that call this unique environment home.

Returning to mainland Senegal, we enter urban home-stays in Kolda. Students confront pressing development issues including health, unemployment, gender, human rights, and education through a series of NGO visits and mentored study. Heading east, we trek from village to village amidst the rolling hills around Kedougou, stopping to bathe beneath breathtaking waterfalls and speaking with local environmental activists along the way.

The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes: “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize.” We leave Senegal with stories, many stories, far beyond what media sources can tell us at home. Our last days in Senegal are punctuated by a flurry of phone calls as we say goodbye to the friends and family who took us in here, people whose stories we continue to tell for years to come.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

Learn about Sufi Islam and the unique Islamic brotherhoods of Senegal, meet Catholic communities, and get an introduction to animism through visiting a local fortune-teller.

5/5
Development Studies

Investigate issues of immigration and unemployment, gender issues and children’s rights, abolition of female genital cutting, desertification, land-use, climate change, urban and rural healthcare, colonization, and education.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Explore the history of migrant cattle-herders, Islamic traders, and French colonial explorers on Senegal’s shores while discussing the implications of undocumented immigration in the dangerous canoe journey to Europe and North Africa. Confront the spectre of slavery in a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once the largest slave trading center on the African coast.

5/5
Home Stay

Spend three weeks with families on an island in the Sine-Saloum Delta, three weeks in a remote Pulaar village in the south, two weeks in the urban areas of Kolda or Thies, and stay as a group in other communities along the way.

5/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Dive deeper into a topic of your choice through mentored study during home-stays.

3/5
Language Study

Learn to speak Wolof through daily classes in the Delta, practice French through immersion and supplementary lessons, and try out your Pulaar in southern Senegal through experiential language immersion with home-stay families, trekking guides and Senegalese friends.

2/5
Learning Service

Work alongside communities to learn about how they serve their environment through reforestation and explore the meaning of reciprocity by participating in community activities during home-stays.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Climb into horse-carts, public transport, fishing boats, or wander on foot as we travel throughout Senegal and stay in rural communities with little electricity or running water.

2/5
Trekking

Embark on a week-long trek from village to village in the green hills of the Southeast and camp out on remote mangrove islands in the Delta.

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