Cynthia Velazquez
July 2, 2014

Hello! I am back from Senegal! What? Was I not just in Morocco?

Well, yes, but as part of the Rabat summer program we were also taken to spend a week in Dakar, Senegal. And so here I am. Spending a week in Senegal was, to say the least, interesting. I usually don’t like when people describe things as interesting because I can never tell if it’s a good thing or a bad one. My experience in Senegal is one that will definitely be hard to repeat in the future.

We arrived in Senegal at around three in the morning last Monday and the first thing I noticed was the weather. It was hot. Honestly, I thought that because it was three am it wasn’t going to be that warm. Clearly, I underestimated the power of West African weather.  We didn’t arrive at the hotel until about four in the morning because we were held up in passport control because we didn’t have visas (which was apparently a recent change) and so that took its time. In the end all six of us had our first ever visas and one girl had a husband. Just kidding, apparently the guy who gave her the visa called her his wife. Right off the bat I felt like Senegal was a more upbeat country. I don’t know why but it seemed to just have more energy. There were so many people just gathering at the airport and socializing. At three am!

And so Monday started off with a series of lectures and visits to certain institutions such as l’Intitut Fondamentale d’Afrique Noire. They do so much to collect and document information about Africa and its cultures. We had various lectures on different topics throughout the week. Each professor was an expert in his field and widely known. What surprised me the most about the lectures was how laid back they were. Some professors had a PowerPoint and some others only had some sheets of paper to read off of but I learned so much. For example, I learned about the Sahel region of West Africa, which is a region that is currently facing serious security and humanitarian problems. I didn’t even know these problems even existed. There I was: in my little bubble of ignorance.

The academic aspect of the weeklong trip was stimulating; however, I feel that the highlight of the trip was our visit to l’Île de Gorée. We spent one night in a hostel on the little island just off the coast of Dakar. Even though it didn’t have air conditioning it was still a nice little place. We visit the Maison des Esclaves, a museum and a cannon at the highest point on the island, to name a few. Gorée is a very small island and so we could go from one side of the island to the other in a matter of minutes. The most remarkable aspect of this island is its people. There are women who meet you on the ferry and call you “my sister” and make you promise to visit their shop. There are the painters that literally ask you to bargain with them for a good price on what they are selling. We had a band that played local traditional instruments that danced with us at night. Senegalese people are so welcoming (sometimes overly welcoming, like when I was overwhelmed by a vendor literally shoving a doll in my hands so I would buy it) that it is almost unreal.

This trip to Senegal really was interesting in every sense of the word. There were good things and there were some not so good things. In the end, I think the only world I would ever use to describe it would be just “interesting”.

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Cynthia Velazquez

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a sophomore studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In my free time I like to spend time with friends and family. I also enjoy going out to town and trying new things, such as food and activities. I like to explore new places. I am excited to be studying in Rabat this summer and I hope that blogging about it will help record all the experiences I hope to have.</span></p>

2014 Summer 1, 2014 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Biological Sciences
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