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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Introduction Letter- Benjamin Roberts

Shwmae!

My name is Benjamin Roberts and in just a few days’ time, I’ll be setting off for what will no doubt be the adventure of a lifetime from my home in Wales. That gets me onto something that I think is important to know about me: I’m very proud to be Welsh. I’ve included a picture of me competing at the School Eisteddfod, an annual celebration of Welsh culture and a fierce contest within the school, which is split up into four house teams (the P on my face stands for St Paul House, which I led). The rich heritage to be found in the Welsh language, landscape and most importantly its people has given me a hunger to explore the more traditional culture of Senegal, which can be masked by its time as a French colony. Useful though French may be, it’s Wolof that I’m most excited to start learning; learning Welsh has taught me to appreciate languages not just for their practicality, but for the connection to a folk tradition and oral history that they provide.

Another of the reasons that Senegal attracted me is the music. I’ve played bass guitar in a number of ensembles, but more than anything, I just enjoy listening to talented musicians doing what they do best. It was not long after seeing Femi Kuti, a Nigerian musical icon, in concert that I learned of the Bridge Year Program in Senegal, and it was then not long before I was delving into Youssou N’Dour’s back catalogue (his 1989 album ‘The Lion’ is my personal favourite, if you were wondering). How exciting that we will be in the heart of such a musical country, and although I have no doubt that my greatest musical experiences lie ahead of me, I have really enjoyed playing gigs with the Cardiff Youth Jazz Orchestra and playing in the pit band for Little Shop of Horrors.

Some other interesting things about me:

  • I am currently facing up to the reality of a life without rowing. Until recently, I trained every day and have been rewarded by representing Wales as well as developing a lot as a person and as a team member. I love being on the water, so it’s fortunate that we’ll be by the sea in Yoff.
  • My main academic interests lie in mathematics, economics and public policy. The reason I chose to go to an American university over one in the UK was that I wanted the opportunity to fuse these subjects within the context of a liberal arts degree. I’m really looking forward to using what I’ve learnt in Senegal to direct my further academic inquiry, particularly on the subject of development economics.
  • I pride myself on my funky socks, so expect to see some fantastic socks and sandals combos from me.

I look forward to sharing the stories of the year ahead, meeting the team, and a time of immense personal growth.

Cofion gorau,
Benjamin Roberts