West Africa Semester: Rhythms of Senegal

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About

Senegal is a country of contrasts where new development occurs beside centuries-old traditions. The Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day when hundreds of people stop to worship on the city’s sidewalks. Senegal’s famous hospitality, called “teranga,” is in the air from the moment we set foot on the sandy streets of Dakar.

The semester takes us from the French colonial outpost of St. Louis, to the fast-paced capital of Dakar, all the way to a Sufi Islamic coastal village on a white sand stretch of beach. Students on this semester stay almost exclusively with local families and have the opportunity to meet with leaders, traditional healers, regional development specialists, and other experts in West African history, geography, and philosophy. Students study Wolof and French throughout the semester, using their new language skills at the market, skills at the market, in service work, and with the community.

We offer comprehensive, personal home visits so that we can answer your questions in person. One of our expert staff members will present on our program options and share stories from their own formative Where There Be Dragons program. To request a home visit in less than 2 minutes, .

Highlights
  • Investigate issues of immigration and unemployment, gender issues and children’s rights, abolition of female genital cutting, desertification, land-use, climate change, urban and rural healthcare, colonization, and education.
  • Spend about 6 weeks total in either one or two very remote villages, two weeks in the urban areas of Kolda or Thies, and stay as a group in other communities along the way.
  • Learn about Sufi Islam and the unique Islamic brotherhoods of Senegal, meet Catholic communities, and get an introduction to animism through visiting a local fortune-teller.
  • Embark on a week-long trek from village to village in the green hills of the Southeast and camp out on remote mangrove islands in the Delta.
  • Choose from a wide range of possible topics for mentored study during time in homestays such as drumming, West African dance, storytelling, gender issues, visual arts, traditional medicine, politics, batik, jewelry making, and more.

Questions & Answers

At the beginning you will, to better understand and learn cultural norms and language then as you become more comfortable the instructors challenge you to be more independent. The last part of the trip before transference phase it expedition phase where the students lead the trip themselves, it’s a culmination and application of all their learning and was really rewarding for me.

Reviews

100%
based on 5 reviews
  • Housing 9.2
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 10
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 5 of 5
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Sarah
10/10

Senegal 2016

Towards the end of high school, I was extremely hesitant to take a gap year. Having now completed it, I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do, and that Where There Be Dragons was the right program to go with. I miss Senegal every single day. I had never travelled anywhere other than Europe or North America before I went, and going changed my entire perspective. Senegal overwhelms the senses. The heat, the taste thieboudienne, the songs, the sounds of shouted greetings and the feeling of gritty sand between my toes are all vivid in my memory. It is unbelievable how truly kind and outgoing the people are.

A major part of the reason it was so life changing for me was how Dragons is run. It teaches you the ropes of the culture, the language, how to be safe, and how to get around, while simultaneously allowing you to be extremely independent. Because of this independence, you are able to truly able to integrate yourself into the community as an individual, rather than being sheltered within a group of your own nationality.

The experience is not easy. Going to a country where the food is different, the language is different, the culture is different, the climate is different, and the resources are different is an extremely challenging experience. But it was the difficulty of that experience, and the fact that Dragons allowed me to face the challenge head on, that led me to acquire invaluable life skills and grow immensely as a person.

Yes, I recommend
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Claire
10/10

A life altering experience

I entered a place that I knew little about and came into the lives of people whose language I could barely speak and the connections I made were stronger than anything I could have imagined. Living with a family, walking home to their house everyday and feeling the love and care and warmth they extended to me was a feeling beyond anything I could describe in words. I felt loved and safe and so connected. Over the three months I spent with Dragons In Senegal I was challenged and pushed beyond my comfort zone and within that experience I feel that I grew an exponential amount. I have never felt more in touch and aware of the world around me then I did in that magical vibrant and enchanting place. I carry the memory of my host mothers and siblings and grand parents and neighbors with me everywhere I go. I cannot express enough how much I learned from the moments of deep connection that I shared with the people around me. Dragons gave me a place to grow in a safe and supportive environment and lead me on a path that will forever influence my life decisions in the future.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Julia
10/10

Quite the Adventure!

This trip was exceptional! Truly! That's not to say that it wasn't difficult, frustrating, and stressful at times but that is what made it so important to my growth as a person and a perfect introduction to the rest of my gap year. I was struck by unexpected homesickness while abroad which was a bummer but the instructors and other students were so caring and did all they could to make me feel better. We studied Wolof, Pulaar, and French and stayed with three different homestay families, two in Senegal and one in Guineau. They were new and challenging and so special. Between when class ended and dinner with our homestay families in Thiès, we had complete and total freedom. We could go anywhere alone or with our peers. We went to the market, the ice cream store, and we took taxis anywhere. It was amazing to be given that opportunity to experience Senegal by ourselves. I don't expect that this liberty is available in many other programs.
Our trip was unusual in the way that it was only females that signed up and there were only seven of us as opposed to the usual twelve participants per Dragons trip. A WTBD trip creates an environment where one tends to get super close to their peers super quickly. By the second day, I felt like our group had broken a barrier that usually takes at least three months to breach. We supported each other without fail and my communication skills improved so much.
After WTBD, I was ready to take on the world. I felt like every challenge I could possibly face, I knew from experience how to deal with it and how not to be fazed by it. After this trip, I went onto volunteer at a dog sled race in the Yukon at -40 degrees, then learn Arabic and intern at a women's nonprofit in Morocco, then climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and none of those experiences challenged me more than the three months I spent in Senegal.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly nothing! It was challenging and it took me a little distance to see the beauty in the challenge and I wouldn't give it up for the world.
Yes, I recommend
Espoir
10/10

An Incredible Program for a Gap Semester

I recently returned from spending six months in Senegal for my gap year before attending Dickinson College in the fall. The three months I spent with Where There be Dragons were so transformative to my overall gap year experience but also to me. Throughout the program I learned so much, and created such deep connections with both the people I was with in the group but also local communities we were welcomed into so warmly. I stayed in Senegal for three months after the program ended and without being on my own and traveling on my own I would not have realized the extent of how valuable a Dragons program is. The skills I learned through Dragons were the only way I was able to continue traveling on my own, and the only reason that I was able to create opportunities for myself and discover more while staying safe and connecting with new people and communities. I think the most powerful aspects of the Dragons experience for me were the tools and skills we learned that I now know are essential to intentional travel in new spaces and places. Language lessons, history lessons, and independent projects were key in my Dragons experience and helped me create my own connections to my host families and the places we visited. The curriculum is carefully created by the instructors, and also modified by the students with input and planning done by the group and for the group. The instructors offered one on one support but also were mindful in everyone's transitions to traveling and living in a new place and challenged us to always get out of our comfort zones. Only because of my Dragons experience was I confident, skilled and experienced enough to continue traveling on my own in Senegal afterwards. After returning home from Dragons I have a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation to continue learning about this part of the globe that is so often forgotten by our history classes but also I am inspired and curious to explore new places and because of the skills I gained through Dragons I am so thankful to say that I know I can go to those places safely while having the adventure of a lifetime and continuing to learn and grow.

How can this program be improved?
Dragons has really great financial aid and a dedicated staff to find scholarships, but the price is a little steep while it is well worth every cent.
Yes, I recommend
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Stephen
10/10

WTBD team Senegal!

When I was a senior in HS, I decided I needed to take time off from school. I decided to go to Senegal with WTBD for a semester and It completely changed my life and how I see the world. From homestays in large cities to trekking in the forests of southern Senegal to living in a rural village, this program covers everything you could possibly want from a gap semester program and more! I've learned how to respect others and their culture and how to be a successful global citizen. If you want to broaden your horizons, make new friends, push yourself to leave your comfort zone and learn about the world at the same time, do this program!

How can this program be improved?
During the trek, we were instructed to pack too many things in our bags which consequently made them very heavy and hard to hike with. Granted, our trek was shortened due to sickness so we had excess material.
Yes, I recommend

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Dragons programs are authentic, rugged and profound learning adventures that expose the beautiful and complex realities of the countries in which we travel. Featuring extended itineraries, Dragons programs encourage deep immersion into strikingly...