Neocolonial Nightmare August 19, 2019

By (French Language, Literature, Vassar College) - abroad from 05/28/2019 to 07/31/2019 with

Academic Programs Abroad (APA): Dakar - Summer Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes, I would still say it was worthwhile because I was able to be immersed in a Francophone country and forced to challenge myself in ways I never could had I stayed back in the US for the summer. There are things I learned that I'm still thinking about how to articulate and that can't be summed up simply in this review. Even if your abroad experience with a program is bad -- that doesn't mean it was a mistake to have chosen it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes were an absolute mess. Very little communication between the program and the local professors.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The director of the program was only in Dakar for the first and last weeks of the program. We could contact her by phone or message, but she did very little, if nothing, to assist with the program while she was back in Paris. The other two administrators left on site with us also did not do much other than organize us to move host families multiple times because of problems.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I ended up splitting my time between three separate host families over eight weeks. The first arrangement did not have running water, a lock on my door, sheets, or just space for me in general. Five people were sleeping in one room. The second arrangement/family -- largely ignored me, however they were nice and I had space and privacy.

* Food:

The program expected us to eat three meals a day seven days a week with our host families which was not in any way practical or feasible. Our classes were scheduled by the program during mealtimes as well. We had no stipend so we all ended up spending a lot of our own money on food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

In general, people were very welcoming to us in Dakar. As a white woman, I of course did not blend in, however I never felt unsafe or unwelcome.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

One student in my program had money stolen from him in a scam, but other than that, there were no major problems.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

After my time with this program in Dakar, I firmly believe that the direction of abroad programs needs to be representative, culturally and racially, of the host country or region. This one is not.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I didn't really keep close track of how much I was spending, but basically, if you don't want to sit in your room all day, you have to spend money. Taxis add up. APA did not show us how to use cheaper forms of public transportation. We had to figure the buses out for ourselves towards the end because we were all broke. We also needed to buy food almost every day because families weren't reliable to feed us. While Dakar cost of living is "cheap" it adds up when you're there for 6 or 8 weeks.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About $75-$100

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

They encouraged us, however my French was pretty weak going into the program so it was unrealistic for me to all of a sudden be fluent. The American students ended up just speaking english to each other.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 206 (four college semesters)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Watch youtube videos, don't speak english in your french class at all! Utilize other french speakers at your school to practice having conversations with.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • N/A
* What could be improved?
  • Direction
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? No one working for APA is originally from Senegal.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.