Senegal- Tempered enthusiasm for a full-on immersion experience. Past Review

By (Anthropology, Grinnell College) for

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes. Language skills, got comfortable making mistakes.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was much less than is typical at Grinnell, but we did spend a lot of time in class during the Dakar phase (M-F, 9-6 or so). The grading was not difficult and there weren't lots of assignments. All of the classes are at a center and you only have fellow MSID students in classes. We met other study abroad students at the center, but only got limited exposure to the University there. It wasn't a bad thing though. It probably would have been really overwhelming to be totally immersed in school and at home. Most of the learning went on outside the classroom. The field trips were really nice. I know that this program expects more academically than some- it isn't as though the work was nonexistent, but it certainly wasn't as rigorous as I am used to.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Things weren't particularly organized, but everyone on site was proud of the program and worked hard to make it a positive experience. The program assistants were very competent and helped out with everything from getting clothes made to taking us to the post office and doctor.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The program places you in host families in the city, and then in the internships (wherever you go). We had varying degrees of success. I struggled to avoid a creepy host brother, some people felt like boarders, others made lasting connections. All of the families were fairly well off and had things like beds. Most had sinks/running water. Some had modern toilets. I was treated as a friendly guest by my family and enjoyed the bond I made with my host mother a lot. We all brought towels and such, but my family provided sheets.

* Food:

Don't go here if you're a strict vegetarian! There's a ton of meat in the diet and not enough veggies to support you! Lots of rice and millet. Delicious sauces, chicken, lamb, beef. My family was always force feeding me to try to make me plumper! It was nice because in Dakar there were lots of diverse foods available. I could always find a French grocery chain to buy the comforts from home (or something like them) if I was willing to splurge.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I oftentimes enjoyed going out in the city with my host family and fellow students. The program organizes a great trip to the border with the Gambia that you will never forget!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Dakar is fairly safe, although it is important to listen to the advice of the program and your family. Take cabs at night and go places with friends. I never felt particularly threatened, but there were some points at night when I wished I was with a friend.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

We spoke French in classes, although we often spoke English with each other. At home, my family spoke to me in French until I got a bit better at Wolof. Don't go here trying to learn French. It just isn't going to happen! But it is a great chance to be immersed in a completely non-English speaking place, learn some Wolof, and improve your French vocabulary to a degree.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program takes more courage than I thought when I signed up. I left with a very positive impression of my trip, although it definitely had its challenges. There were days when I didn't talk to anyone because I couldn't understand the language, days when I was so sick I couldn't move, and days spent avoiding the men of my household because I felt uncomfortable around them. But then there were days spent cooking with my host mother, bargaining with taxi drivers, going to Senegalese clubs, etc that I just LOVED! Be prepared to be challenged but have a great time doing it. You will never feel so independent.