Learning at the Baobab Center
The Baobab Center (also known as African Consultants International) is a resource center situated in Dakar, Senegal, that works with numerous American universities to provide language instruction in French, Wolof, and other native languages. At the center, Lawrence students will attend:
- Cultural orientation workshops designed to help them gain an understanding of the Senegalese lifestyle and integrate into the local society
- Classes on Senegalese culture, literature, and history; French language; beginning Wolof; and Senegalese music, taught by ACI’s Senegalese faculty, visiting professors from Senegalese universities, and a Lawrence University professor who accompanies students on this program. Students can rely on faculty to address any questions or concerns throughout their stay.
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.
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.
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 (students choose an instrument to learn - the djembe drum or kora, a stringed instrument.
Please note, you will also be required to take FREN 325 - Destination Dakar (2 units) in the Winter Term preceding your Dakar term. This class will help prepare you for your experience abroad.
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.
- 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.
Orientation, Cultural Excursions, and Travel
During the your first week in Dakar, normal classes will be put on hold. Instead, you will be given a thorough “crash course” in Senegalese culture and history, cultural sensitivity, health and safety, and small tours through different parts of the city. This has been cited as one of the most helpful resources for students, because a member of the Baobab Center accompanies each excursion and teaches vital skills, such as bartering in the markets and how to use public transport.
Excursions and Weekend Travel
Some weekends during your Dakar program you will participate in group travel to a destination of historical or cultural interest. These trips can vary each term, so be sure to ask your program director what you will be visiting during your term abroad. Popular past destinations have included:
Island of Gorée
Home to the largest slave-trading center on the African coast. As a group of mostly Westerners, this visit requires a certain sensitivity. The island is beautiful and the visit is an enormous privilege, as well as a wonderful learning opportunity.
A village located a few hours south of Dakar and situated directly on the coast. This visit entails staying at the mosaicked hotel, Sobo Bade, where there are classes for art, dance, and music.
Senegal’s former French colonial capitol hosts a huge jazz festival, which at times lines up with our bi-annual program. A long weekend is usually spent in this city, several hours north of Dakar, and it is full of music, food, and markets, as there is always an art show that accompanies the festival. This has been a favorite trip among many of the returned students.
In addition to the above possibilities, past years’ students have also visited Lac Rose, Touba, Mbour, Louga, Tivaouane, Bandia, and Les Îles de la Madeleine – sometimes with their host families or other students from the Baobab Center.