Lawrence students participating in the Senegal program will spend much of their time at the Baobab Center (African Consultants International) in Dakar. It is here that students will attend Orientation Week their first week in their new host country and also where they will take their classes during the term.
The Baobab Center is an education center that works with a number of American university programs in Senegal. It provides language instruction in French and Wolof, as well as other native languages, and organizes lecture series featuring local university professors. Additionally, the staff at the Center provide an excellent resource for Western students first arriving in Senegal. Need help getting to or from an event? Need help haggling cab fare? Want to find a tailor? Staff can help with all of these questions and more!
- The Baobab Center is open 24/7, except for a few holidays, meaning students are also able to come in during the weekend to use Wi-Fi for communication and homework assignments.
- The Center is staffed 24 hours a day.
- Baobab Center staff are accessible 24 hours a day for emergencies
Note about Technology: The Baobab Center is a school for international students and travelers and will therefore provide a consistent Wi-Fi connection for each group attending. However, that may not be the case at every student’s homestay. More and more host families have Wi-Fi at home, but The Baobab Center is the best resource for reliable Wi-Fi. With that in mind, it may be important to plan calls with family back home for your lunch break during the school day, or after classes have finished for the day.
Upon arrival in Dakar, students spend the first week in a series of workshops hosted by ACI related to gender, cross-cultural learning, health, and safety & security. Additionally, there are several planned outings into the city with an ACI guide to give students a point of reference for navigation and show them how to use public transportation in Dakar.
Topics of Orientation Week:
- Cross-cultural Learning - The days spent discussing these topics provide an enormously insightful look into learning while abroad. The group is introduced to the country’s cultural values based on traditions in Senegal. These discussions are led by both staff at the Baobab Center partnering with local core members of the community, who can provide context and sensitivity to those behaviors that might differ from the Western expectation. This is the workshop that concludes with the group’s first traditional Senegalese meal "around the bowl," giving the students the opportunity to practice the etiquette associated with this integral cultural tradition.
- Cultural Exchange Workshop - Students are also introduced to the concept of communicating across cultures and cultural differences. Again, professors and other mentors lead discussion on misconceptions and assumptions, helping the students understand the origin behind the differences they will be seeing. Using city outings as a starting point, students are given a platform to talk about what they have observed and discuss how to interpret those observations.
- Gender Workshop - With Lawrence groups that are nearly always female-dominated, this workshop is an important introduction into understanding the gender expectations and realities in Senegal. This includes discussing the different cultural perspectives on gender and sexuality, those that are widely understood and those that are just beginning to be introduced. This workshop is key for students to learn how to communicate more definitively with the opposite sex. If there are specific questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact any of the program leaders (any professor from the Lawrence French Department) or any of the returned students.
- Safety - In a welcoming and stable country like Senegal, the safety of the group is not often called into question. Regardless, a thorough workshop is provided to the petty theft and scams that are abundant in certain parts of Dakar, particularly where tourists tend to flock, such as the Place d’Indépendance (a large, Western-style mall). One aspect of the discussion often includes an update of popular scams at the time (scammers tend to work in a two-person tactic, with one who distracts and another who goes into your pocket). These are not serious concerns, but the students are advised to take obvious caution with any valuables they might be carrying on them and wear clothes and carry bags with secure pockets, as they would in any other large, metropolitan area.
Students take 10 weeks of language courses in French and Wolof at the Baobab Center. Additionally, each week, lectures are given by highly qualified faculty, mostly from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, covering a variety of topics, including West African literature, West African history, and Islam in Senegal, as well as Senegalese art and music. With the exception of a few lectures by American academics and the Wolof language courses, all of the course instruction, lectures, and discussions are in French.
Pre-Departure Coursework - Winter Term 2022
FREN 325 - Destination Dakar - 2 units - This course is required for all students participating in the program. The course meets weekly in winter term and serves as an introduction to the program.
Dakar, Senegal Coursework - Spring Term 2022
Students who complete the program earn 24 units of credit for Spring Term 2022 and 26 units in total (including Destination Dakar in Winter Term). Students taking cross-listed courses in ANTH or MURP may count these units toward general education distribution requirements as appropriate.
FREN 400 - Senegalese Culture - 6 units (cross-listed as ANTH 450)
FREN 401 - Senegalese Literature and History - 6 units
FREN 402 - French Language - 6 units
FREN 403 - Beginning Wolof - 3 units (offered S/U only)
FREN 404 - Senegalese Music - 3 units (cross-listed as MURP 405) (offered S/U only) - The music course allows students the opportunity to learn an instrument of their choice, such as the djembe drum or the kora, a stringed instrument. This course also includes learning a traditional Senegalese dance, and all of this learning is typically showcased in an end-of-term performance at the center.
Unlike life on the Lawrence campus in Appleton, the weekly class schedule in Dakar is different just about every week. Generally, students should expect to be occupied with classes or activities between 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. each weekday. There is a break in classes or activities from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. each day during which most students walk home to eat lunch with their host family. Alternatively, students can stay at the Center, purchasing a meal from a street vendor or local restaurant or pay for a portion of the meal prepared for the day by the Center's cook.
Independent Service Learning/Research Project
During the term, each student will work on an in-depth independent service learning or research project. The Baobab Center and LU program director will help to find a suitable placement based on each student’s individual interests.
- Projects can be a good opportunity to conduct research for a senior experience project, but they also don’t have to be in your major! You can pursue anything that interests you.
- Staff at the Baobab Center can help connect you to local resources
- Past projects have been interdisciplinary in nature and have included:
- Global Studies (sustainable fashion)
- Biology (traditional medicine)
- Environmental Studies (government’s approach to climate change)
- Government (studying political identity expressed through art)
- Students will present their experiences at the end of the term and are encouraged, if so desired, to integrate their findings into their academic work on the Lawrence campus.
For background information on the Baobab Center, including their workshops, and profiles of their staff, check out their website.
If you’re interested in the program's day-to-day activities, take a look at their regularly updated Facebook page.
The WikiTravel page also provides a lot of general information regarding the history of, and traveling in Senegal.