West Africa Semester

Rhythms of Senegal

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
85 Days
Description

From agricultural villages to mangrove islands, explore contemporary issues of West Africa while delving into artistic and musical traditions in a culture renowned for its generosity and hospitality.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2020


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2019


Fall Availability

closed

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

21 Weeks

Fall Begins In

0Days

Land Cost

$13,815


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,310

Dakar

Kolda

Niodior

Kedougou

Thies

Saint Louis

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.


Senegal is a country of contrasts where new development occurs beside centuries-old traditions. The Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day as hundreds of people stop to worship on the city’s sidewalks. Senegal’s famous hospitality, called “teranga,” is in the air from the moment we set foot on the sandy streets of Dakar.

The semester takes us from the French colonial outpost of Saint Louis, to the fast-paced capital of Dakar, all the way to a Sufi Islamic coastal village on a sandy stretch of beach. We stay with multiple local families and meet with leaders, traditional healers, regional development specialists, and other experts in West African history, geography, and philosophy. We study local languages, using our newfound language skills at the market, during our trek, and with the communities which welcome us.

Homestays, both urban and rural, are one of the cornerstones of our semester. We spend several weeks being welcomed into urban homes in the regional…

Senegal is a country of contrasts where new development occurs beside centuries-old traditions. The Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day as hundreds of people stop to worship on the city’s sidewalks. Senegal’s famous hospitality, called “teranga,” is in the air from the moment we set foot on the sandy streets of Dakar.

The semester takes us from the French colonial outpost of Saint Louis, to the fast-paced capital of Dakar, all the way to a Sufi Islamic coastal village on a sandy stretch of beach. We stay with multiple local families and meet with leaders, traditional healers, regional development specialists, and other experts in West African history, geography, and philosophy. We study local languages, using our newfound language skills at the market, during our trek, and with the communities which welcome us.

Homestays, both urban and rural, are one of the cornerstones of our semester. We spend several weeks being welcomed into urban homes in the regional capital of Thies. Smaller than its bustling neighbor Dakar, we spend time among the wide tree-lined boulevards in historic neighborhoods which stand in close contrast to new construction. We also find ourselves exploring the slower rhythm of life during our rural homestay in one of the vibrant rural agriculture-based communities outside of Kolda. When not helping our host families in the fields, we come together for lessons in local arts and meetings with community leaders.

Senegal offers rich artistic and musical traditions. Throughout our semester we delve into the fine arts by studying under master artisans and musicians and attending riveting live concerts. Whether as part of an independent study or simply as a way of getting to know our host families, we revel in moments to drum, dance, and sing with communities under the starry skies of West Africa.

Further south, our feet carry us to breathtaking waterfalls and plateaus, where we speak with local environmental activists and explore the home of some of West Africa’s last chimpanzees. We confront pressing development issues including health, unemployment, gender, human rights, and education through a series of NGO visits and mentored study. We conclude our journey in an artist enclave perched on rocky cliffs above the sea, leaving with stories that we will continue to tell for years to come.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

4/5
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.

3/5
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
Homestay

Spend about 6 weeks total in either one or two very remote villages, two weeks in the urban areas of Kolda or Thies, and stay as a group in other communities along the way.

4/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Choose from a wide range of possible topics for mentored study during time in homestays such as drumming, West African dance, storytelling, gender issues, visual arts, traditional medicine, politics, batik, jewelry making, and more.

2/5
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.

4/5
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. Possible travel outside of Senegal to locations in nearby countries such as The Gambia and/or Guinea, depending on the term and learning objectives.

3/5
Trekking

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