Hello fellow adventurers and travelers, wanderers and wonderers,
August is coming to an end, the stores are full of back-to-school supplies, and soon we’ll be on our own adventure!
The instructor team has been gathering virtually (as we’re all still spread across the US until we gather just before our course for an instructor training in Morocco) to discuss our upcoming course, and we are beyond stoked for what’s to come.
Below is our itinerary. Please note that this itinerary is tentative. A cornerstone of our programs is flexibility, and this may change once we get on the ground. We stay flexible so that we can continue to work with our local host communities and contacts, and with you (the students!) to deliver an engaging and immersive program.
As you’ll notice below, we hope to travel to Guinea and The Gambia. Travel to these countries if often done on semester programs, although it is sometimes not possible. Guinea and The Gambia are intricately tied to Senegal – culturally, ethnically, historically. Populations along the borders often identify more closely with their neighbors across the border than in their own country. By traveling to these areas, students gain a deeper understanding of regional issues, of historical migrations and cultural ties, and of the long-term effects of nation building and modern politics.
Intentional travel involves many moving parts, and we may adjust the itinerary and forego travel to one or both of these countries should our on-the ground assessments recommend it. Any associated visa fees for Guinea or The Gambia would be covered by the program.
We will continue to post any itinerary changes or other updates for our families and friends on the Yak Board leading up to and during the course.
A tentative itinerary for our West Africa Semester Course:
September 16: Arrival at Blaise Diagne International Airport and Overnight in Thies
The group flight arrives at the Blaise Diagne International Airport. The instructors will post a Yak once the students have arrived. We will then travel to Thies, just 45 minutes north of the airport, to get our first introduction to Senegal. We will take this first day to rest, get our bearings, learn foundational cultural do’s and don’ts and key health and safety tips. Don’t worry, we’ll be back! This is just a sneak peek at the city that we’ll return to for our urban homestays!
We will post a yak closer to departure with details about arriving at the airport in Senegal and meeting up with the group.
September 17 – September 21: Orientation in Mouit, outside of Saint Louis
On our second day, we will continue our journey north to Mouit, a small village at the entrance to the Langue de Barbarie National Park outside of Saint Louis. This will be our homebase for 5 days for orientation. We will get to know one another, craft a shared mission, and start basic language classes. We will also have the opportunity to visit the local market and speak to members of the local community about their work in the national park. With Saint Louis only a short drive away, we will be able to tour the historical city and former capital of French West Africa.
September 22 – October 19: Urban Homestays in Thies
On September 22, we’ll return to Thies for a month-long urban homestay. Thies plays many roles as a regional capital and regional seat to many organizations and associations – public, private, and nonprofit. Smaller than its bustling neighbor Dakar, about an hour away, there are wide tree-lined boulevards in historic neighborhoods next to residential areas with new construction. The market is friendly and hospitable, a perfect place to explore and practice bargaining.
Students will be placed with homestay families, take language classes at our program house, meet with community members and learn about their work in a wide range of areas from nonprofit work, to traditional medicine, to art and dance. Thies will also provide the optimum place for students to begin exploring their Independent Study Project, or ISP. We will post a Yak soon with some initial ideas!
Given its central location, Thies is also a great homebase for small excursions to visit Dene, a small village on the coast and home to a daara or quranic school, or Touba, home to the largest mosque in West Africa and holy seat of the Mouride Islamic brotherhood.
October 20 – November 7: Trekking in the Fouta Djallon
The Fouta Djallon is a region where family ties cross national borders. Home to Pulaar communities and many other ethnicities, Wolof is no longer the preferred language. We hope to also visit Guinea during this time, but please remember that our itineraries are flexible. If we cannot travel to Guinea, we will have an opportunity to extend our trekking in Kedougou.
November 8: Overnight in Kolda and 2-week Rural Homestay in Temento Samba
We will travel back into Senegal and rest for one night in Kolda. The following day we will head to Temento Samba for a 2-week-long rural homestay experience. We are lucky enough to do these in Samba’s home village! Temento Samba is a beautiful village surrounded by lush forests, local agriculture (and beehives for divine local honey!), and dirt trails perfect for a short stroll on the way to neighboring villages. Home to subsistence farmers, we will experience first-hand an important way of life in Senegal where the routine is marked by rooster crows, children’s laughter on the way to school and family time around the fire at night. In Temento Samba, we will be there long enough to settle into a routine, become comfortable with our homestay families, and develop friendships across language and cultural differences. We will have additional time to explore ISPs, meet with community members and learn from their experience, delve into themes of development, economy, agriculture and climate change, drumming and dance, and migration and cross-border issues between Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
November 24 – November 30: Expedition Phase in the delta regions
We will close our program with an expedition in the delta regions of The Gambia and Senegal. The Gambia river defines the country of the same name. The Sine-Saloum Delta just to the north in Senegal also defines the region. The two regions share a deep connection to water and fishing, and although formerly separated by a national border, the two areas a closely linked through economic, cultural, ethnic and familial ties. Please note that, while we hope to travel to The Gambia, our itineraries are flexible. If we are not able to travel to The Gambia, we will use this time to deepen our exploration of the Sine-Saloum Delta.
This week will give us greater insight into the region as we’re able to compare and contrast our experience here with the past few months of travel in Senegal and Guinea. This expedition will take shape over the course of the program to respond to student interests and engage students in larger leadership roles.
December 1 – December 5: Transference in Toubab Dialaw
Our final few days in country will be devoted to reflection as we reflect backwards and forwards and land in the present. Where have we been? Where will we go from here? What have the past 3 months meant? In this idyllic location on the petite cote, where the sand is soft but the rocks are rough and the breeze is cool but the sun is warm, we will find balance.
We are beyond excited to travel through 3 spectacular countries with you!
Stay tuned to the Yak Board for a pre-course assignment, some ideas about potential ISPs, final FAQs, and posts from you and your fellow travelers!
Jamm ak jamm,
Peace (to you) and peace (to us),
Your Instructor Team
Samba, Cameron, and Elke