On the Dakar Senegal program you will live with a host family, which you will be matched with via an application process prior to departure for Senegal.

Based on your application, the Baobab Center (ACI) will place you with a Senegalese family that best matches your preferences. Therefore, it is in your best interest to be as detailed as possible! Dietary preferences, age of siblings, and more can often be taken into account when placing students with families.

Did You Know?

The Baobab Center has been working with some of its host families for nearly twenty years!


In Senegal, your host family is a support system, a cultural resource, and your own language program, all in one. And, within a homestay experience, you can expect:

  1. Your own bedroom with a door that locks
  2. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
  3. A fan and a mosquito net
  4. Access to a bathroom with running water
  5. Laundry once a week

Benefits of the Homestay

Because you will be living with a host family, you will be fully immersed in Senegalese culture from the start. And, while this is an amazing benefit of the Senegal program, here are some other advantages to living in a homestay while in Dakar:


You cannot experience the wondrous and mouth-watering tastes of Senegalese cuisine outside of a Senegalese family. While breakfast is more often than not a loaf of freshly baked bread and Nes-Café instant coffee, lunch is never something you want to miss (but if you are going to, you’d better let your host mom know!).  In Senegal, lunch is a time to take a break during your long workday, relax, and eat a delicious home-cooked meal with your family and friends and whoever else might be around the house.

Senegalese meal.

Meals are an important experience in that they give a very visual representation of what the Senegalese mean when they say, “teranga” (or hospitality).  Everyone is given space to eat “autour le bol” (translated: “around the bowl”), and all the food is shared until everyone has had their fill. If you try to be modest and eat only a bit, your family might let you know with stern encouragements of “lekkal!” or “eat!” until you leave with a full belly of delicious food. So, don’t bother following the polite, American tradition of leaving some food on your plate; it doesn’t quite work that way in Senegal!


One of the biggest differences between language learning in Senegal versus France, for example, is the amount of English that is spoken.  In Senegal, aside from your professors, you might not meet many English-speakers, your host family included.  Some families will speak fluent French and Wolof, among other Senegalese languages such as Serrer or Pullard, sometimes more so than the others.  Again, this contributes to the uniqueness of each family experience.  Who knows, you might even pick up tidbits of a third language while you’re there.  

Senegalese teacher in front of white board teaching Wolof

By not being surrounded with English speakers, students are encouraged to communicate in French as much as possible, as reverting to English is not much of an option. However, for a lot of Senegalese, French is their second language - one they learned at school, just like you! Students often find that this - along with the warm, welcoming attitude of the Senegalese - takes off some of the pressure of speaking “perfect,” grammatically-correct French and encourages personal growth in the language.

The opportunity to stay with a host family hugely enriches the language acquisition process by providing you with immediate practice partners outside of the classroom.  Feel free to ask your family to correct any grammatical mistakes you make while speaking, and even to help you with your homework.


There is only so much learning that can be done in a classroom, but living in a second (and third) language can give you an enormous opportunity for growth.  Staying with a family that you did not grow up with can sometimes be uncomfortable, but being in an uncomfortable place can often lead to a transformative experience.

family meal with students in Senegal

At first, you might just be using your language for the bare necessities like food, water, hygiene, and things around the house.  But, as your time goes on, you’ll find yourself recounting to your family something funny that happened to you on your way to school or during your weekend excursions, and you’ll be able to participate in the lunch conversation.  Your host family will give you the opportunity to be an active and conscious learner, so making the effort to look up a certain word or phrase will not go unnoticed.

Senegal at a Glance

Year of Independence from France 1960
Capital Dakar
Population 17 million
Languages French (official language), Wolof, Mandingo, Serere, Parakolle
Government Secular democratic republic. Senegal is one of the most politically stable countries in Africa.
Religions Islam (92%), Christianity (6%), Animism (2%)
Currency Franc CFA

Senegalese Cultural Resources


  • Youssou N'Dour is arguably the most famous Senegalese musician known for the mbalax, which is a Senegalese style of music that mixes traditional drums with Afro-Cuban and jazz influences. 
  • Wally Seck is also a famous Senegalese mbalax artist who represents the new generation of mbalax.
  • Wasis Diop is a Senegalese folk artist
  • Nix and Carlou D are Senegalese rappers
  • Positive Black Soul is a Senegalese activist rap group 


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Television and Film

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