where there be dragons

The Rhythm of West Africa – A Gap Year Program in Senegal

A Gap Year program exploring Senegalese culture through Home-stays, Internships, Service Learning, French & Wolof Language Immersion

Gap Year Africa

Sep 15 – Dec 6
Feb 12 – May 1

Land Cost:

Begins In:
Washington DC

Est. flight cost:
Fall ’15:

Now accepting applications for fall ’16Apply

Program Overview
A voyage to the African continent is often marked by an inexplicable calling: a longing to return to a simple way of being, where daily life deeply reflects a profound connection to the cycles of the rainy season and authentic interactions with neighbors, and where the enigmatic rhythms of political, spiritual, and cultural life reflect the circular pulse of ancient drum beats. Marked by an unyielding hospitality, West African culture embraces us from the onset as we begin the Dragons Senegal semester abroad and gap year program residing with families in the urban center of Thies. During our 5-week stay in this vibrant town – which is located an hour’s drive east of Senegal’s capital, Dakar – students dive into complex issues surrounding gender, human rights, traditional medicine, modernization, and the brotherhoods of Sufi Islam through NGO visits, guest lectures, music and dance lessons, collaborations with local schools, and ISP internships.

Following this urban stay and intensive period of French and Wolof language study and language immersion, students leave the Baobab-ridden desert of the north and head southeast into the rolling green hills of Kedougou. With packs on our backs, we embark on our inquisition into rural life much like the locals do: on foot. Sauntering down the dusty red road that leads past traditional earthen dwellings, we stop in Fulani, Bassari, and Betick villages, where we begin to investigate the stark disparity between urban and rural African civilization. Embraced by the sing-song intonations of the Fulani language, we are lured into agrarian village communities to visit with traditional healers and Islamic leaders, and to rejuvenate beneath isolated waterfalls.

From our trek, we continue our investigation of Fulani culture and agricultural society, we settle into 2-3 weeks of rural home-stays in small villages located outside of the town of Kolda. Confronted by a vast hospitality in these sleepy communities, students engage in a small-scale development project addressing local health issues, observe grass roots decision-making processes, practice their language skills in weekly markets, continue with their drum and dance lessons, and authentically delve into the rhythms of African life while milking cows, sleeping in mud huts and creating bonds with home-stay siblings.

Dragons’ Gap Year Africa program in Senegal progresses with a move into the urban centers of the north, where we are welcomed by the animated cadence of Dakar and the easygoing tempo of the historic and quaint settlement of St. Louis. We conclude our journey in an alcove perched on cliffs above the sea, where we reflect upon our sojourn and the ease in which complete strangers who, at first glance, appeared radically and unfathomably different, have transformed into people whom we leave calling “brother, sister, mother, father, grandma…”

*This program area offers a Spring Expeditionary Extension Program for Fall Semester students.

If you are unsure where to take a gap year and with whom, consider that Dragons also runs Princeton University’s Senegal Bridge Year Program.

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