Teranga Newsletter from CIEE Study Center, Dakar Senegal
First step: An orientation to how to navigate oneself into senegalese daily life.
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.