Luisa Mirarchi '07

The J-term trip to Senegal was an amazing opportunity, especially since I had never traveled outside of North America. I could not have asked for a more well-rounded experience. I was able to see so many different aspects of the Senegalese culture and to learn so much about the people and their history which is exactly what I wished to gain from the trip.

I was extremely impressed by the sheer volume of activities that the group was able to be a part of. The management of the trip was outstanding, and the trip coordinators were fabulous people and helped us out in any way that they were capable.

This most memorable moment of the two weeks was the West African dance class on the beach. It was an amazing chance to be wholly, mentally and physically plunged into the culture.  The lectures were also enlightening, as they enhanced the experience by providing us information about Senegalese literature and poetry. At the end of the trip, I had a more complete understanding about the culture and the people, and I was able to make comparisons between Senegal and the United States which helped me to self-reflect.  For my "internship," I attended a conference at the SWAA which was very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the clinic from a managerial perspective and learning more factual information about AIDS in Africa. This was an important part of the experience and I would recommend that it be a part of the agenda for the whole group. This "internship" helped me gain a lot of insight and I wished that I could have shared that experience with everyone.

Living with the Gomis family was the most intriguing and educational part of the trip. I spent every night in Senegal writing in a journal for an hour, just taking note of things that my family members said and did. I came to realize so much about myself and about so many cultural differences just by watching, listening, and talking to the family. At first it was difficult to communicate; it took a lot of time to adjust to speaking French constantly with fluent speakers, but by the end of the two weeks I came into my own and was much more comfortable expressing myself. I was able to relate to Ousmane Sene's lecture when he discussed the difficulties of expressing oneself in a non-native language.

Overall, this trip was the most interesting and exciting things that I have done. Having this opportunity as a first year has helped merealize that I have the potential and ability to go beyond this trip and expand myself across many other borders and cultural boundaries. I would like to express my deepest thanks to everyone involved in making the J-term trip to Senegal a reality.