Nikolas Sweet

West Africa Instructor

B.A. French and Economics, Virginia Tech

PhD in Anthropology (in progress), University of Michigan

Nikolas has worked as an instructor on Dragons West Africa Semester and Senegal summer programs.

Growing up in a bilingual, German-American home in Appalachia, Nikolas spent his weekends roaming the Appalachian Trail with fellow Boy Scouts and unsuccessfully following in the footsteps of Tom Petty and Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist of an upstart garage band.  During high school and college, he studied and traveled across Europe, where he was first empowered to use languages as a means of exchange and self exploration. A Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Nikolas double majored at Virginia Tech where he combined French literature and Francophone studies with economics as a social science in order to explore transnationalism and human sociality.

After college, Nikolas joined the Peace Corps in Senegal and served as a small business consultant for three years in a fragile border community at the crossroads of international mining companies, transnational highways and border trafficking.  As a volunteer, Nikolas consulted with women’s groups, helped organize environmental youth camps as well as HIV/AIDS campaigns and malaria eradication campaigns.  Upon completion, Nikolas began working as a self-employed, pro bono travel writer, searching for long-lost relatives in Eastern Europe, spending time with West African immigrants across Spain and France, and travelling in southern India.  He speaks French, German, Wolof, and Pulaar.  When Nikolas has free time, he enjoys the consumption of tasty food, undirected reading, unselfconscious dancing, and above all, uninhibited people watching.

Nikolas is currently working towards a PhD in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan.  Focusing on emigration narratives, language ideologies, and transnational communities, he seeks to understand how language—woven into the culture of diverse communities—helps us create meaning, socialize and share our common experiences.  Nikolas has earned a National Science Foundation fellowship to study the narrative of emigration from West Africa to Europe. With the insights of this research, Nikolas hopes to become a scholar-activist.