Study Abroad in
Teranga Newsletter blog, CIEE Dakar, Senegal
The best way to learn about a culture is by immersion into that culture. CIEE Dakar offers theopportunity to students to do that by providing many possibilities for exploring the country and its culture. For example:
Learning about eating habits in Sengal through their cultural pals before trying them at their homestays;
Having their first taste of the Senegalese national dish of Wolof rice and fish called Ceebu jën;
Enjoying the mango season during Orientation and Culture in context day;
Fully integrating into the culture by spending time with host families. Students are given this opportunity by being assigned to host families which they are part of for the entire semester;
Exchanging visits with each other to experience a different family or neighborhood;
Touring and exploring the city of Dakar to learn how to get around. Guided by their cultural pals, students visit many landmarks and famous places in the city of Dakar.
Students experiential public transportation they will be using for the rest of the semester in Dakar;
Visiting Goree island, the historical slavery land where thousands of human beings passed through the door with no return to be shipped to Americas. Goree, a World Heritage;
The first excursion of the semester: Toubab Dialaw, outside of Dakar. After few weeks of academic learning we took a weekend trip to a little fishing village situated 55 km from Dakar on the Atlantic coast, with beaches of beautiful white sand and rock formations;
Students were able to choose between doing batik (tie dying), or dance or drumming.
A large portion of the Dakar CIEE program consists of internships, volunteering and community engagement. Students are involved with this experiential work throughout their semester in Dakar. The Internship Coordinator in charge of placing students at a large variety of organizations and institutions. Students typically visit their placement sites once or twice per week.
Some students for their community engagement volunteer at a pottery school for kids with disabilities called Colombin. They painted a mural with the students to make the space enjoyable and easy to work at.
Here at Colombin, CIEE students improve the students and staff morale and effectiveness where they intern by bringing energy and reducing the workload and espacially helping the association grow.
A student said this: “I volunteer at an amazing place called Colombin, a pottery school for kids with disabilities. This week we painted a mural. It was sooo fun and I can't express how blessed I am to get to work with such wonderful people (CIEE students and Senegalese folks alike!!)”
Students visiting schools with their intership institution but also some class field trips. Students provide new ideas, creativity, and warmth to the institutions they intern. They not only impact the children like in this picture but the staff also learns a lot from them.
A student said this: "Our Education and Culture class came to visit the school and hear Monsieur Mbaye-Amoul yakar's story."
A word from a student: "We went to visit an elementary school. It kind of made me sad seeing as how some classrooms don't have books and some don't even have teachers. The students will just sit around all day. But one highlight was that they bum rushed me and the other students who came like we were celebrities or something. It made me happy that they were so excited to meet Americans."
Besides the academic life that students experience in classrooms to acquire new knowledge, they also totally immerse themselves into the Senegalese cultural and everyday life in Dakar and within their host families.
When there is a party or celebration organized by host families, cultural pals, friends or who else that can enhance students' learning curiosity and gain a deeper understanding of the culture, CIEE encourages students to get involved. A perfect example is when Muslims celebrated the Eid, many of the students made an outfit and mingled in the community to celebrate like and with them.
During the third day of qualification of the soccer game for African Cup of Nations (CAN) , students were not left out. They did not want to stay home to watch it on television. They had nothing to worry about because CIEE with the help of cultural pals organized a ride to the stadium to enable students to experience these moments live. III - FACULTY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Language teachers
To enable students to have a good semester and be able to learn with ease, the academic coordinator organized a workshop session for faculty development to better help students meet their academic needs. The workshop took place on October 29th and was a forum of exchanges between Language Teachers in one hand, and all CIEE trainers in the other hand. The objective of the workshop was to improve the quality of teaching at CIEE, mainly in French classes where lessons need to focus more on students’ needs; but also with a Faculty to be able to understand and manage problems/ misunderstandings related to culture that often happen in classes.
A) During the first session (particularly organized for Language teachers), the followings points were discussed:
*Lessons covered in French classes for the 4 levels (lessons’ plans /contents/activities)
*New activities to reinforce the practice in class and work on grammar, conjugation, vocabulary acquisition and memorization, questioning as well as students’ spontaneity, etc.
After a deep discussion, some recommendations were given to teachers as strategies to better manage misunderstandings in class.
Two weeks ago, the Language & Culture (LC) and Development Studies (DS) programs students spent one week for LC students and two weeks for DS students in rural areas throughout Senegal to experience rural life and to expose themselves into real Senegalese culture. Some of them went to rural areas with a Peace Corps volunteer where there is no electricity; there were off with no technology (no electronic devices, no wifi), some of them couldn't even charge their phones.
A student said this: “I spent the most incredible week being hosted by Jill, a Peace Corps volunteer living in Agnam Toungel, a village in the Podor region, way up North in Senegal. More impressive even than Jill's Pular speaking skills was her seamless integration into the culture and community.”
“I traveled to Thies for my rural visit in Keur Demba. I asked for electricity so Victoria placed me with a family that actually had a television. The bathroom was bigger than the one I had here in Dakar. My room was more spacious too and I was surprised because I thought that my living situation would be a little worse than here in Dakar. I suppose some people did have a worse living situation than I did. When I arrived, everyone was excited to meet me. They gave me a new name (Ndiya Wade: I don't know how to spell it) and they constantly quizzed me on the names of my host mom and dad. They mainly spoke Wolof and very little French. It was difficult for me to communicate with my family especially since my Wolof isn't very good. They asked me what I liked to eat and they made it for me for dinner. There wasn't very much to do. It was definitely a time to relax and enjoy your surroundings. I did help shell some beans that they would cook for dinner. One day, a student and I got to ride on the back of the horse when we traveled to into the fields to gather food for the other horses. It was really beautiful seeing the trees and feeding the horse was fun! I didn't know that they had such strong jaws. One of the days there, I had to take my first bucket shower, but it wasn't that bad. Apparently the water stopped working in the community. On a different day, we were able to see the women in the community tie dye clothing that they would later sale to the community. I purchased a blue wrap. Overall, it was a great experience and it gave me a greater appreciation for the things we have here in Dakar as well as America”.
“This past week on the rural visit was an unforgettable experience. I was able to integrate into rural life quickly and participate in an array of activities. From Senegalese wrestling to harvesting peanuts to riding horses and donkeys to searching water from a well and carrying on my head to teaching an elementary class in French - my rural visit was enriching. It was remarkable to see the work ethic of these incredible men and women. They are focused on the essentials of life and it was a breath of fresh air to reconnect with nature and traditional ways of living.”
To begin their four months in Senegal, students took a week to get a taste of Senegalese culture. This orientation allows them to begin their semester with ease.
Students were welcomed by staff members at the CIEE Study Center. They then participated in a comprehensive orientation program that aimed to prepare them for the upcoming semester. Throughout the week, they learned about cultural customs, proper dining etiquette, and Senegalese values as well as many logistics pertaining to living in Dakar.
The orientation kicked off with an overview of the cultural and academic program to enable students to get a glimpse of what to expect throughout the semester. After that a physician from SOS Medecin, our designated team of program doctors, came to talk with students about how best to prevent, identify, and treat anything from diarrhea to malaria. The doctor fielded all their questions.
In order to place students in classes based on their level of French, a language placement test was held on the first afternoon of orientation. There was a written test conducted by French Professors. After that CIEE staff members administered an oral LPI (Language Proficiency Interview).
Students went to the Baobab center (ACI) to have a cross cultural orientation and they learned how to eat around the bowl with their hands, which is a common way of eating in Senegal. There are many rules for eating, such as only eating with one’s right hand and only eating within your allotted pie piece. Then students put their learning into use when eating their first meal around the bowl.
An interactive session on transportation was conducted so that students could get acquainted with the system of buses and taxis in Dakar. During this session they were also introduced to local markets and to the art of bargaining.
Trying out car rapids, bus transportation in Dakar. Week one of orientation concluded with a downtown sortie with the Cultural Pals. Cultural Pals are Senegalese students recruited to help students navigate Senegalese culture, Dakar, and Senegal at large. They are students’ cultural references for any issues or questions they may encounter.
The next day it was time for the presentation of internship and community services programs. The resident coordinator presented the organizations where students conduct their internships throughout the semester. According to student interest, the coordinator discussed with students the possibilities available to them. Nearly every student received a community service or internship placement.
After the neighborhood sortie that familiarized students with their respective neighborhoods, students took their first Survival Wolof course. This first class covered greeting etiquette, which is very important in Senegalese culture.
After two Survival Wolof courses students were prepared to interact with their family (at least to greeting and to communicate their basic needs). It is very helpful for students to start using Wolof because it is a good tool to get comfortable with their family members.
The orientation also included sessions on safety and security, gender and diversity, and living with homestay families.
A very important element of this orientation was the session on cultural objects which allowed students to learn lot about the culture and customs of the Senegalese. Through this activity, they were able to learn some important things which will help to prevent many mistakes and missteps. With the assistance of cultural pals, students organized themselves into small groups and they went out with one or more cultural objects to ask questions to people they meet on the street at random. Their responses collected were used in the larger group to share with everyone so that they all benefit from it.
As usual, for-credit internships and not-for-credit community service opportunities play a significant part in the CIEE Dakar student experience. In terms of for-credit internships, 16 students in the Development Studies program and 7 students in the Language and Culture program have been placed in 16 different organizations in Dakar. The placements are in Government agencies such as “Stratégie de Croissance Accélérée” and in non-governmental organizations such as RADDHO and Siggil Jiggen as well as in public institutions such as the Albert Royer children’s hospital.
The CIEE Dakar SP14 students arrived on January 19, 2014 and were welcomed by staff members. They then participated in a comprehensive orientation program that aimed to prepare them for the upcoming semester. Throughout the week, they learned about cultural customs, proper dining etiquette, and Senegalese values as well as many logistics pertaining to living in Dakar.
On day one there was a welcome session, which included introductions as well as an overview of the academic program. After an appetizing lunch of a Senegalese dish, the orientation continued with an informative and interactive medical session. After that, a French placement exam was carried out in order to adequately assess students’ levels.
On the second day of orientation, the CIEE students attended a cross cultural orientation led by the NGO ACI (Africa Consultants International). This day-long session addressed many issues that students should be aware of when living with Senegalese host families. They discussed Senegal as a whole at first, and then sang a song called “Tank, loko, nopp, bakan, baat, bet,and gemin” (Wolof: Legs, hands, ears, nose, throat, eyes and lips). The students were then split into groups to talk about values, beliefs, and assumptions.
They also learned how to eat around the bowl with their hands, which is a common way of eating in Senegal. There are many rules for eating, such as only eating with one’s right hand and only eating within your allotted pie piece. Then students put their learning into use when eating their first meal around the bowl. After lunch, they finished their presentations and walked back to the CIEE study center.
That evening, CIEE staff members held sessions on transportation and shopping. According to many students, these sessions were very informative.
Survival Wolof lessions began the next day. These classes provided students with certain expressions that were useful during their first days with their families. On Wednesday afternoon, the students joined their host families.
On Thursday the students attended a presentation on internship and community service and then had survival Wolof again before the gender and diversity session. CIEE shares a building with a Senegalese social science university. The partnership goes beyond sharing a physical space; CIEE students partner with local students in order to practice their language skills and to exchange lessons about culture.
On Friday, CIEE staff members led a homestay debriefing to address students’ questions and concerns. The final orientation session involved asking students to go out on the street and ask questions about cultural objects that they were given. The students returned after about an hour to share information they gathered with the group. The activity was an enjoyable and interactive way to wrap up the week’s activities. On Saturday, the students had a downtown excursion that gave them the opportunity to visit the city and have lunch on their own.
Last weekend CIEE group took a break from classes in Dakar. The group traveled to Northern Senegal to explore another aspect of the country and its culture. We left Dakar in the morning and traveled east to Thies, where we stopped for lunch. Thies, the second Region of the country, is also known as the capital of the railways. After the delicious lunch we headed to the Lompoul Desert, the Djoudj National Park and Saint Louis fo Senegal.
After a great lunch in Thies, the group headed to the Lompoul desert. After everyone settled down in their assigned tents, students the rest of the afternoon students were free to explore the around the desert and had the option of taking a short fifteen-minute camel ride. At sunset everyone gathered in the meal tent and experienced a caravan trail meal. After dinner, a tam-tam party was offered to our group by our host. For hours into the night the tam-tam music provided a wonderful time for dancing and enjoying each other’s company. Everyone had a wonderful time.
The Lompoul desert (sometimes spelled Lumpoul; in French: désert de Lompoul) is a small desert (about 18 km2) located 145 km south of Saint-Louis, Senegal. The landscape is formed by deep brown and orange sand dunes; this type of dune is more akin to those of the Sahara and Mauritania desert than those of the surrounding area of Senegal (the Grande-Côte), which gives students a more varied experience of Senegal. The desert is named after the closest settlement, the village of Lompoul.
After our wonderful afternoon and evening in the desert, the next morning we got up very early to have breakfast and head out to Djoudj National Bird Park. This bird sanctuary is famous as the favorite site of European birds that travel south to this specific location in Senegal each year to escape the cold northern winters. We arrived at Djoudj around lunch time. The students were placed in two “pirogues” (a large wooden canoe) to travel along the river to spot and observe the various types of migratory birds.
The sanctuary provides a range of wetland habitats perfect for the needs of migrating birds, many of which have just crossed the Sahara Desert. The winter home for almost 400 species of birds, the most abundant and visible are the pelicans and the flamingos.
Less conspicuous are the Aquatic Warblers; for this particular species of bird, the park is the single most important wintering site yet discovered.
In addition to birds, a wide range of wildlife like wild boars, crocodiles and monkeys among others also inhabit the park. Due to the parks importance to birds and wildlife alike, it has been designated a World Heritage Site.
After a delicious lunch at the Djoudj Hotel (hotel de Djoudj) the group set out for the city of Saint Louis- first established in 1659 as a French trading post. We arrived at our hotel, Rogniat Nord. First we distributed room keys so that students could settle in and place their bags. After they were settled, together we all headed to the restaurant for a delicious dinner. Students choose from a variety of authentic local and international cuisine that could accommodate everyone’s tastes including fish, lamb, shrimp, pasta and vegetarian options. After dinner, students decided to explore the island in small groups. Some students chose to observe the local small scale cafe scene to listen to varied Jazz acts, while others preferred attending a live music concert at a larger hotel bar. Still other students chose to simply walk around the city to observe the night life and chat with locals and street vendors.
Since Saint Louis lies on the border of Senegal and Mauritania (the Senegal River serving as the international boarder) students were eager to observe Senegal’s neighbor to the North. The next morning, students were given the chance to make a quick visit to the border so that they could “see” Mauritania. After this short excursion, most students used the early morning to complete some shopping in the neat boutiques and artist shops. The rest of the students used this time to explore a little more of the city and in particular its historical architecture- since many of the colonial buildings from when Saint Louis was the French capital of French West Africa still stand. After these early morning activities the group gathered for lunch and after another wonderful meal we boarded the buses for the return trip back to Dakar.
Founded as a French colonial settlement in the 17th century, Saint Louis was urbanized in the mid-19th century. It was the capital of Senegal from 1872 to 1957 and played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa. The location of the town on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River, the system of quays, and the colonial architecture give Saint-Louis a distinctive appearance and unique identity in Senegal.
Saint-Louis was established in 1659 by French traders on an uninhabited island called Ndar. It was baptized Saint-Louis-du-Fort in homage to the French king Louis XIV. It was the first permanent French settlement in Senegal. The fortified trading post allowed the French to conduct business with African traders who traveled from the interior to the coast along the Senegal River. Slaves, hides, beeswax, ambergris and, later, gum arabic were the main items of trade. In 1758, during the Seven Years War, British forces captured Senegal. The British controlled the port for 21 years until February of 1779, when French forces recaptured Saint-Louis. In the late 18th century, Saint-Louis became the leading urban center in sub-Saharan. During that time, the island was home to approximately 5,000 inhabitants, although this number does not count the slaves held and waiting to be exported to the Americas through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Today, trade continues to be a critical element of Saint-Louis’ economy, but tourism constitutes this city’s most important economic contribution. For this reason, the city preserves and celebrates its Atlantic World heritage, like many other cities throughout the world with similar “Creole Atlantic” roots including Bahia in Brazil, Havana in Cuba and New Orleans in the United States.
Last week, students were off for their rural visit. They were placed all around the country. Some went to villages where they were hosted by a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and others stayed with families that have hosted American students before, but without mediation from of a PCV or other Americans.
During this week students had a unique opportunity to compare life in the city to that of rural villages in Senegal, get acquainted with other aspects of Senegalese culture, and practice numbers of local languages.
Students directly engaged with their respective village communities and were involved in several development projects that included vegetable farming, public health work, and support in other programs already established by Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV), NGOs, the local government, or village hosts.
Many students cited this experience as one that was unforgettable as they recounted the chance they had to observe daily life in the village, and engage in activities such as milking cows, walking around and breathing fresh air in vast natural spaces, or simply participating in extended greeting rituals.
“I was in Missera Peuhl with Michelle and PCV Miles. It’s a tiny Pulaar village four hours by bush taxi. There was a lot of agriculture — we ate bowls of millet (lechery) at every meal, and there was a ton of corn (masara, newel!). I tried to learn as much pulaar as I could there, and everyone was really excited to help teach me. None of Miles' projects had started yet, but there was a doctor who visited to vaccinate the newborn babies one morning and a representative from Papem, an organization helping to build latrines. Overall, it was a great trip. I would love to keep learning pulaar and to visit again!”
“I was in Ndayane, (petite cote) a rural village in Senegal for a week and I literally cried when I was leaving the wonderful CISS family, they treated me like I was part of the family, I enjoyed their company every single minute they spent with me. They took me to the sea to fish & shared their know-ledge with me. To TOP their generosity, they even gave me the honor of presenting a flag to the winner of traditional Senegalese wrestling... It’s amazing how people are different from every setting I have visited and lived before... on that note: I LoVE EVERY EXPERIENCE I HAVE Gained so far !! #Senegal #homeland #Ciss Family #fishing #ndayane #studyabroad2013 #100%senegalese”
“I went to the Tambacounda region, to a village called Dawadi. It consists of Wolof, Sereer, Mandinko, and Pulaar people, and I stayed with a Mandinko family. My favorite part of the trip was getting to know the family that I was staying with. Communication was very difficult as I didn't know Mandinko and only knew a little Wolof. Nonetheless I connected with these people in a way that I will never forget. I spent a lot of time with my family, trying to learn as much Mandinko as possible and trying to form relationships with them. They were so open to talking to me, patient with me, generous, and humorous! I learned that joking and dancing are universal languages, and I tried communicating using both of those mediums. Overall, my rural visit was one of the best experiences of my life. I took so much away from the visit and am so thankful for the opportunity.”
“On my rural visit stay, I went to Dakatelli in the Kedougou region. It took 12 hours on a sept-place to get to Kedougou from Dakar, and from there, it took another 2-hour sept-place ride to a road town. From the Road Town, it took a 3-hour, 15-km walk to Dakatelli. I went with Heather. In the village, we milked cows, ate really good food (cous-cous, soow (milk), peanuts, attaya (tea), etc.), met a lot of really nice people, visited surrounding villages, and learned a little Pulaar. We stayed with a Health PCV named Katie. Over the course of the whole week, we walked a total of around 70km! It was a great trip, and I learned a lot from our stay.”
“I went to Toukar in the region of Fatick. I stayed in Maimounda Diop's home, the wife of Aldouma Diallo the teacher of Public Health. It is a Serere village. I worked at the health post with the nurse Ngor Ngom. The first day I observed how consultations and treatment of diseases were going. The next day, I helped the nurses. I wrote prescriptions during consultations. When we were doing pinches, I assisted in cleaning wounds. One day, I was attending a study with a research team. The aim was to determine the prevalence of malaria in Toukar. I worked several hours each day, but I also drank Attaya (Senegalese tea) and discussed with my family. I learned a lot about Medicine and it was interesting to treat patients myself. I would never have the opportunity to do that in the United States.”
The rural visits provided an opportunity for students to have productive interactions with people in villages they visited. Independently of the work they were asked to submit as part of the courses they take in Dakar, many students intend to use the wealth of experience collected from these rural visits as a source for ongoing research projects they are conducting for their home schools.