Rural Part was Incredible - Dakar Phase was meh. Past Review

By (Economics and Environmental Studies, Tufts University) - abroad from 09/01/2013 to 12/13/2013 with

University of Minnesota: Senegal - MSID - International Development in Senegal

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The research part was GREAT, which is why I would recommend the program to others. You should really consider doing research (not an internship).

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.

You're not going to be impressed with the academic offerings during the classroom phase of the program. The professors are lackluster and disorganized - when they even manage to show up. However, I don't think anyone considering this program is doing it solely for the classes, and it's important to remember that when you find yourself getting frustrated. There's so much else that this program offers that the poor classroom experience is kind of excused.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Hit or miss. Waly (the program director) and Marie (his assistant) are the nicest, most helpful people ever. But they're just as disorganized as the professors, and so we wasted an entire day figuring out visa stuff because Marie didn't think to call ahead at the visa office. Things like that would never happen in America, but then again it wouldn't be Senegal if things were run well.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Best part of the program. The homestay was incredibly valuable. MSID did a good job finding host families for us, and for the most part everyone was pleased.

* Food:

Get used to a plain diet of fish, rice and veggies, especially during the rural phase of the program. I happened to like it, but several others in the program were allergic to fish and/or vegetarian, and they would give much lower reviews.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The homestays did a good job of that - especially in the village. A couple of pieces of advice: 1. In Dakar, request a homestay with people your own age, ideally a brother, since Senegalese men are much more outgoing and it will help you figure out the social scene much easier. 2. For the second phase of the program, request a small village. Your family and community will value you so much, and that's not always the case in the other cities. It's also somewhat uncomfortable for girls to be alone in cities, since Senegalese men can be aggressive, and outside Dakar they will have less exposure to American girls. Tread with caution if you're a girl who requests to go to a city.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Pharmacies are readily available in Dakar. Fortunately I didn't have to use the hospitals. You will need vaccines, and several of them take up to a month to take effect, so plan early. The vaccines can be VERY expensive, so factor that in to your cost estimates.

* Safety:

Dakar is safe for Africa, but you'll definitely feel less safe walking around at night than you would back home, especially if you're a girl. Get ready for hisses and catcalls. I know of one group of American students that was mugged, but that is exceedingly rare.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* 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)

Average of $60-$80 in Dakar, way less in the village (maybe $30-50/week).

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Pregame the bars. Bar prices in Dakar are more expensive than the US, somehow.


* 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

I got much better at French and Wolof. If you go to a small village for your internship/research you'll get good at Wolof.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
How many hours per day did you use the language?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

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

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Opportunity to do research
  • Living in a small village
  • Studying 2 languages
* What could be improved?
  • Classes
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Lower your expectations for the classes and for how organized the country will be.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.