When I first told people I was studying abroad in West Africa for French, I got a lot of “What’s wrong with Paris?” type of responses. My answer was “Nothing”, but I was seeking a more immersive, unique adventure in another culture learning another language. I wanted to do something a bit off the beaten path and go to a place I might never go on my own. This made the French LBAT – Senegal program a natural choice for me. I will always remember my time in Senegal as one of the absolute best summers of my life and reflect upon it fondly.
When I first arrived in the airport at 2 a.m. (apparently this is a normal time for a plane to land in Dakar) I was overwhelmed with smells, crowds, sweat, and jetlag. As I got into a taxi with mismatched black and yellow doors held together by duct tape, I seriously wondered what I had gotten myself into. However, when the sun came up and I met my professor and host family, I knew everything was going to be just fine.
The weekend I arrived in Dakar was actually Eid, or Korité as it is called in Senegal. It was very unique to see the tail end of Ramadan and how things really slowed down during this holy month. I also remember my first proper Senegalese feast on Korité to celebrate breaking the fast.
I’ll never forget my first taste of warm, spicy thiéboudiène and wondering “Where has Senegalese food been all my life?”
While I was in Senegal I thrived. I felt so independent and empowered making my way around such a different country in my second language. Every day felt like an adventure, and my friends and I often made time to go on special excursions to local attractions, markets, the beach, and more. Even walking to school over cracked sidewalks and through roundabouts with seven different offshoots and no traffic lights was exciting. Every day I tried new foods, met new people, practiced my French, and saw new things. These novel experiences, French proficiency, and the sense of independence I gained during this time gave me a lot of confidence and worldly experience I would not have otherwise had.
– Alexandra Merck
I made the decision to go on the Senegal LBAT two days before the application was due. After a presentation from Professor Sy in my French class, I called my mom and told her of this amazing opportunity. I spent the following hours and days trying to convince my family to let me go on the program. When hearing the words study abroad in Africa, my family was concerned about what that kind of experience would be like and importantly whether it would be safe. After only a little bit of research I was able to prove to them that studying in Senegal is actually safer than a lot of European countries. After illustrating that safety should not be a deciding factor and a lot of persuasion, my family finally let me apply to the program. Little did I know at the time, but the decision to study abroad in Senegal changed my entire life.
The day we arrived in Dakar, I knew it was going to be an adventure of a lifetime. That night not everyone from the program was together yet, but those of us who were went out to dinner with Professor Sy. He showed and enlightened us to what a traditional Senegalese burger was at a local joint. I might have just been really hungry, but I still remember that being one of the best burgers in my entire life. A layer of meat, fries, and an egg transformed my taste buds for the better.
The days and weeks to follow consisted of learning French, Wolof, and the culture of the Senegalese people. Each weekend took us on a new adventure throughout Senegal seeing the country side and coastline. My favorite weekend excursion was to Toubakouta. There we were given the opportunity travel through the marshlands and into what seemed like a floating jungle of vegetation. It was almost scary how untouched and calm everything around us seemed. While in this paradise, we saw the most beautiful sunset of my entire life.
Choosing to study abroad in Senegal was one of the best decisions of my life. It was scary and I had no idea what was going to happen, but it turned out to be an extraordinary experience. It helped me not only learn more about another side of the world that was unknown to me prior, but I also learned a lot about myself. Since studying in Senegal my perspective on life has been transformed and my future goals have shifted. Now instead of looking for a prestigious job that may sound nice on paper I am looking to find happiness in what I do and the people I surround myself with. All of the people around me in Senegal showed me what pure kindness and happiness truly is and I hope to help pass along what I have learned in the future.
– Catherine Grey
Going to Senegal changed my perspective on the world. I am so lucky that I got the chance to study abroad in an uncommon continent to study in. It has shown me that you cannot generalize an entire continent based on a few inaccurate facts. The people there are the nicest I have ever met. They give more than they have and will continue to give even what they don't. I would recommend traveling to Senegal to everyone. It will change your life for the better like it did mine. This past summer has even helped mold what I want to do when I graduate Tech.
I say that Senegal was a very unique experience. It gave the opportunity to see a large mix of cultures that had a francophone cover over them all. We had the opportunity to meet and be a part of families in Senegal, which let us see the similarities and differences on a much smaller scale. I saw that having you there as a professor gave a great point of view and offered more insight into the culture.”
– Seth Thurmond
It was very eye-opening, in my opinion. It helped me experience a world that many people didn't fully understand, and as of such, made me more comfortable with trying to understand different people. The people I encountered there were amazing, and I have many cherished memories. Personally, I would like to return -- be it through internship or another study abroad -- and experience more of a culture that wasn't taught to me.
– Lee Wilkes II