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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Facing My Own Daily Dragons

During one of our sessions, we were given the prompt “How Am I Doing?” to reflect on in our journals.

Immediately, the stress of being in a completely different environment hit me.
In these short ten days, I have encountered two of my greatest fears: flies and cockroaches, which, in the United States, I could easily avoid. Cockroaches? Call an exterminator. Flies? There aren’t many around. If I encounter them, I can just go somewhere else. But here in Senegal, they are almost everywhere I go and even an overdose of bug spray won’t save me from their presence. The question “How Am I Doing”? seemed like a joke. I immediately wanted to sarcastically respond, “how do you think I’m doing?”.

As we traveled to Mouit, we stopped at a restaurant at which I would encounter the highest concentration of flies I would ever experience in my life to date. Some of the students easily managed, but I was filled with anxiety, fear, and stress. I tried using excessive bug spray, obsessive fanning, and even just moving around, but I couldn’t escape the wrath of the flies. I lost my appetite. I wanted to get in the car, be driven to the airport, and go home. When they advertised Bridge Year, they definitely didn’t mention the flies, but I guess (as my friends here pointed out) it was implied that bugs would be a part of our new life here. The experience was dreadful, but somehow I made it out alive.

However, as I ponder the question “How Am I Doing?” now, my feelings have completely changed. While leaving the comfort of home was definitely hard, and I am still encountering challenges from which at times I can’t see a way out, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We have a joke in our group that if we really want to leave we can just get hurt or sick and get medically evacuated to Paris, a more “developed” place of comfort. However, as I slowly begin to overcome the obstacles of daily life, I increasingly want to stay in Senegal. If I stayed in the U.S., I could have remained in my comfort zone, but I would never have been provided the opportunities for growth that I am here. My mantra upon embarking on this journey was to “live by faith, not by sight” and while that is definitely easier said than done, it is essential to having a truly meaningful experience. I continue to walk into places where there be dragons, and, in doing so, I am becoming a stronger person who is also less and less afraid of flies.