My study abroad program is winding down now, and I’ll be heading back to the U.S. on May 14. One of my classes ended a couple of weeks ago, and several others will finish next week, so I’ve had a lot of free time recently. I have a couple exams before I leave, but the bulk of my work is papers that are also due the week before I leave. After about four months in Senegal, I’m definitely ready to see my friends and family again and return to familiarity.
I’ve mainly stayed within Dakar during the past month, with the exception of spending my spring break in Rome, Italy. After break, I spent some time on two islands off the coast of Dakar – Madeleine and Ngor – which was a relaxing break from the city. Madeleine is an abandoned island, and Ngor is a very tourist-heavy spot. While it’s nice to get away, it can be difficult to relax because there are constantly groups of locals trying to sell you items (ranging from jewelry to tupperware). It was also quite an experience to get to Madeleine in the first place, because about ten of us had to take a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to get there!
In my free time, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking around the markets and downtown Dakar exploring more of the city. I feel like even after four months, there’s so much of the city I haven’t seen! I also recently saw a concert featuring Ishmael Lo, an internationally known Senegalese singer, for my African music and dance class. It was really cool experience, but I was surprised by how few Senegalese attended the concert. It seemed like a crowd of Europeans. I guess since music is constantly playing on the streets and in the communities, the locals don’t have to pay to hear good music.
Next weekend a few of us are heading up to St. Louis, which is located about three hours north of Dakar. I’ve been told it’s one of the best cities to visit in Senegal, and I’m excited to see more of the country!
I’ve loved my program, and I’m really glad I chose to study abroad in general because it has been full of opportunities I would not have otherwise had. I’m also glad I chose to do a five-month program rather than a shorter summer program because I really feel like I’m living here now rather than vacationing, which took a few weeks to sink in. I’ve seen and experienced a drastically different way of life and I have been completely immersed in an entirely different culture and language. Not only has this has influenced how I see international issues, but it has also made me more grateful for the life I live in the United States!