Greetings from Dakar

June 7, 2021

by Danielle Freshwaters

Before I write too much about my experiences in Senegal, I should tell you that the program looks a little different this year.  I’m the only student!  There is a lot of value in a traditional study abroad experience – sharing the newness and discovery of a culture with other people your own age, studying together, and having the comfort of peers who are just as overwhelmed, exhausted, and excited as you are.  I’ll miss that, but I also know that I’ll gain a lot by being independent.  Anyways, I don’t think I’ve been by myself once during daylight hours since being picked up at the airport until now, writing this post.

Today is my 5th day in Dakar, but it feels like I’ve been here for a month already!  I think that’s partly due to jetlag, partly due to the busy busy busy days, and partly due to the kindness and openness of everyone I’ve met.  Over the last several days, I’ve spent my orientation sessions, meals, and outings in the city with Astou, the APA program director in Dakar, Elisa, another program manager who works at ISM (the university where I’ll be studying), and Yvanna, a student at ISM who will be my “buddy” while I’m here.  They in turn have introduced me to more people than I can count, and each one has made sure I feel welcome and comfortable.

View from the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine

Last night I moved in with my host family, which includes eight people and two dogs. My room is on the second floor of a little apartment attached to the main house, which I share with my host mom Marie Hélène. I haven’t yet set everyone’s name in stone in my mind (I’m about half way there), but I am already starting to feel at home!

Today is my first day of classes, so I will start to have a more regular schedule. Last week was mostly an “introduction” to Dakar.  I had information sessions about city life, family life, Senegalese history, and….food!  I didn’t actually have an information session on food, but

Déjeuner au bol

I’ve definitely had some delicious meals, and if I’ve learned one thing about Senegalese cuisine, it’s that I love it.  One of the highlights was the welcome dinner at O Petit Club Africain, where we shared salads (but not just raw vegetables with dressing, these were salads on another level), main plates of caramelized pork, lotte (a type of fish), chicken, and lobster, and a dessert platter called the bois sucré.  We also had a déjeuner au bol – a traditional Senegalese meal eaten with hands from a big shared bowl.

In addition to tasty food, I also visited the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine and few art expositions, gone for some morning runs on La Corniche, spent an afternoon at the beach,

and learned how to take a taxi, which unlike in the US includes bargaining and giving directions (though I have yet to do that on my own).

If this first week is any indication, I think I’m going to have a wonderful time in Dakar, and I can’t wait for more adventures!

La plage Monaco

About the Author

Hello! My name is Danielle, I'm from Tacoma, WA, and I am very excited to be the student blogger (and only student) for APA in Dakar this summer. I enjoy reading, brain games and board games, cooking, and spending time outside. I'm also a runner, so I am looking forward to exploring Dakar on foot!

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