After a month here in Senegal, I am starting to get settled into a routine. During the week I take five classes which is required of CIEE’s Language and Culture Program in Dakar. The classes are an hour and fifteen minutes each and are held twice a week. My classes are Wolof (the local language), French, Public Health, Social Anthropology and African Cultures, and Internship. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have the majority of my classes. Tuesdays and Thursdays are when I go to my internship at the Red Cross in Pikine, a suburb of Dakar, and have my Anthro class. Gamo, an incredible woman who works in the CIEE office, does a wonderful job of placing people into a variety of internships from women’s rights to refugee resettlement to healthcare to environmental efforts to education to business. My internship is one of my favorite things about my time here so far. My supervisor is kind, patient, and gives me lots of responsibility and opportunities to learn. Another one of my favorite parts are Fridays are reserved for working at internships, for exploring the city, or for resting after a long week. It will be difficult to go back to my two day weekends at Wofford.
All of the instruction for my classes is in French. However, there are courses available in English. This definitely helps with my French immersion, but definitely requires some adjustment and effort. Some classes are more interactive than others. Wolof, French, and Internship seminar are largely discussion based while Anthro and Public Health are a typical lecture style. It is evident that all of my professors care about their subjects. Regarding assignments, I have papers, readings, and projects in all of my classes. Many of the papers are based on our experiences or research. For example, in my Anthro class I will be researching the utilization and mixture of traditional medicine and biomedicine. It isn’t as much work as Wofford. But, there are more distractions and opportunities to fill your day. A beautiful beach is a fifteen minute taxi ride away. There are markets with crafts, shea butter, fabrics, food, and other items to peruse and walk through. There are always activities and people planning different excursions.
I am blessed to have Wi-Fi at my home-stay, so I have more flexibility in when and where I do my homework. Personally, I have to do my homework and study by myself in a quiet place so I work at the desk in my bedroom or in the living room at home. At the CIEE building, there is Wi-Fi and space to study. As well, there are numerous cafes, restaurants, and ice cream places in the different neighborhoods with Wi-Fi.
It may be cheesy to say, but there really are opportunities to learn everywhere. The experience and immersion goes as far as you want to take it and if you seek it. I have opportunities to speak Wolof with the men drinking tea on the corner, the woman sweeping the street, and taxi men while on my way to school or to my internship. I have found opportunities to learn about Senegalese culture by talking to Alphonse, the school’s security guard, the people in my home-stay family, and my supervisor at the Red Cross. Not all learning will be in a classroom setting, but it is easy to find chances to gain a deeper understanding about the environment around me.