Editor’s note: Like Humans of New York’s “daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets,” Humans of CSU tells the stories of the people who populate our campus. Written by Collegian staff and told in first person from the subject’s point of view, this series aims to make each individual on campus relatable.
I was in the fifth grade and we had a cultural fair. To prep for the cultural fair, we all had to study a different country, and I picked Kenya to study. I was 11 at the time.
The day of the cultural fair, all people from the different countries came and talked about the country that they lived in. I remember going around and talking to the guy that lived in Kenya, and instantly I wanted to go there. I was entranced about everything: the animals, the people, the beautiful clothes that they wore, their dancing and their languages.
So, 10 years later, almost to the day, I was on a plane headed for Senegal. I remember being on that plane, and I looked out over the desert, and it was just this vastness–it was just this all-consuming vastness–and remembering back to that day when I decided I was going to go to Africa.
Over those past 10 years, I had really fallen in love with Africa.
Specifically, I chose Senegal because having a French minor, I wanted to go to a Francophone African country, and so that really narrowed it down between a program in Cameroon and Senegal.
Before I went to Senegal, I filled out a survey for my living situation there, and I put on there that I like kids.
My host family was about 20 people. I say “about” because it fluctuated–there were people constantly in and out. There were about eight kids in the house, and there’s been a ninth born since I left. They were really special. They were my third host family: I had one in France, one in Austria and this one.
There was never a moment of feeling alone in that house. Not one.
In Senegal, I was at a study center run by CIEE. All of my professors were Senegalese. The professors were given stipends and encouragement to take us outside the four walls of the classroom. I got to experience education in a very hands-on and up-close fashion.
I remember coming back, and I was really frustrated because while I was in Senegal, I was surveying for malnutrition. It’s very different than talking about the theory of it.
I interned for Imagination Africa. They have recently opened their doors to the first-ever child’s museum in Western Africa. While I was there, they were running these workshops for kids all over Senegal.
There were three-and-a-half levels to the house I lived in, and the beach was about a 15-minute walk from my house. I would go bouldering along the cliff line in the afternoons.
Senegalese really pride themselves on having a culture of Teranga. Teranga is the Wolof word meaning hospitality. There’s a lot of gift-giving. It was really easy to go sit down with people and make tea. People make time for other people there. Here we always have this laundry list of things to do. How they eat exemplifies that too because when you eat, everyone is eating around one big bowl.
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