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Drums of Dakar

Six weeks in Senegal with BU abroad

Click on the slide show above to hear about BU’s program in Dakar, Senegal.

Last summer while most college students were poolside or working nine-to-five, five BU students spent six weeks exploring African arts and culture with the Senegalese Study Program, offered by BU’s Division of International Programs. Based in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the program provides a culturally rich backdrop for African and Francophone studies. Dakar has a strong tradition of music, literature, and film and is home to some of Africa’s most famous contemporary writers and artists.

Courses in Senegalese drumming and dance, literature and film, and Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Dakar, open up the world of African culture. Participants had the opportunity to meet some of the writers and musicians they were studying and were able to visit locations featured in films. The program also offered excursions outside of Dakar, including trips to the slave trade departure hub of Gorée Island and to San Luis, one of the initial entry points of French colonization.

While course work is an important component of the program, knowledge gained outside the classroom is key to the experience. Each student lived with a host family, eating with them and being entertained by them at night and on weekends. Often housed with 10 or more family members speaking as many as four separate languages, subject to frequent power outages, and restricted to Senegalese television programming, students experienced a different way of life. Exposure to a culture grounded in respect, generosity, and hospitality challenged the students’ ideas of Africa and provided perspective on a different culture.

The six-week course will be offered again this summer, starting in late May. Applications are due March 1, 2007. While the program doesn’t require that students be fluent in French, one to two semesters of the language is highly recommended. For more information, contact Odile Cazenave, a College of Arts and Sciences associate professor of French and director of the program, at cazenave@bu.edu, or Leilani Olson, senior enrollment coordinator with the Division of International Programs, at ljolson@bu.edu.