VOLUME 9, NUMBER 1
For Kyle Lebell '07,
a two-week trip to Senegal with a group of Mount Holyoke French
students during January Term was a life-altering, myth-busting experience.
She realized this when she arrived back home in California and the
first thing her sister said was, "Welcome back to civilization,
In just two weeks,
Lebell's definition of civilization had changed dramatically.
"By the second week of the trip, I was hailing cabs in downtown
Dakar, haggling with aggressive vendors in Wolof [Senegal's native
language], comfortably digging my right hand into traditional
Senegalese cuisine, and living on 'African time,' " Lebell said.
"I gradually began to understand life there. Meanwhile, the cultural
barriers that once suggested an uncivilized people toppled."
Her reaction couldn't
have pleased MHC French professor and Senegalese native Samba
Gadjigo more. Gadjigo, who organizes and supervises the annual
J-Term trek to this West African, French-speaking country, hopes
that the experience
gives Mount Holyoke students a "wider, more global perspective
that helps them better understand the world and themselves." He
fully expects that the visit to Senegal will forever alter not
only students' understanding of Africa, but also their perceptions
of "Frenchness" and the French-speaking world.
Gadjigo (right) with MHC students.
The seven MHC student
travelers pursued an ambitious itinerary, including a meeting
with author and MHC honorary degree recipient Aminata Sow Fall,
the first African woman to write a book in French; visits to Pink
Lake (yes, it's actually pink!) and Goree Island and its infamous
Slave House; dance and batik lessons; and an international soccer
game. (Senegal's love of soccer and its national team, Lebell
noted, is comparable to "what baseball used to be in the United
To hone their language
skills, students stayed with host families in Dakar for most of
the trip. This experience, although intimidating at first, helped
the travelers truly understand Senegalese protocol and hospitality,
which, in spite
of the country's dire poverty, is a great source of national pride.
Is a two-week program
really enough to give students a more international perspective?
Yes, according to Gadjigo, who noted that while the College has
a junior-year program in Senegal, not all students want to spend
such an extended amount of time away from the College. "Africa
is one of the last frontiers for Americans to explore," Gadjigo
said. "This two-week total-immersion program allows students to
very quickly open up to a new world and sharpens their desire
to know more about it."