Bonjour! My name is
Danielle O'Neill and I am a junior Culture and Communication major, french
minor at Ithaca College in upstate New York. My favorite color is burgundy
and i am a sucker for old films...(An Affair to Remember anyone?) I
also love learning about different cultures which is why I left my warm showers
and toilet paper behind in suburbia New Jersey to embark on the adventure of a
lifetime in Dakar, Senegal for the spring semester.
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I have been holding off writing this simply because it is so difficult to encapsulate my entire experience here in a few words.I do not have the capacity to describe how my last day in Dakar feels, frankly because it feels like any other day. I have never been to a place so alive as my neighborhood of Ouakam in Dakar. I must spend almost 40 minutes sometimes walking the 8 min walk to the car rapide stop because of how many people I have to stop and and talk to on the street. It is hard to explain without being there, but I feel like the people cutting up fish or crowding in a boutique to watch the end of a soccer game, or the little boys dancing in the street after school, or the fruit and veggie vendors bargaining and screaming with the neighborhood mothers...etc etc etc make Dakar more alive and more real then any other city I have been to. Senegal is certainly not beautiful from first sight, (in my opinion) however, it took me months to appreciate the beauty that this city holds not within its fancy parks or penthouses, but in its people.
Don't get me wrong, living in a country like Senegal has been difficult. There are REALLY good days (getting that 'top shop' shirt from the ouakam market for $.30 after bargaining in wolof and making friends to help you out) and there are REALLY bad days (basically just when things constantly do not work like they do in the states...ie if you ever have no money and you travel in the heat to three banks, all of which are broken or the employees are eating an , or lunch). Being here has been extremely emotional for us Americans as well-there have definitely been MANY homesick days. Though I can honestly say that I have learned more here then I have ever learned in all of my years in school. I have learned so much about myself and the world from the people who have welcomed me into their lives, here. I could not have asked for a better host family and better Senegalese friends to talk about anything and everything during a power outage, over attaya or preparing yassa. The best part about this experience is that when I am in my neighborhood and when I walk down my street I feel so much like I belong that I have started to say 'Senegalese laa' (I am Senegalese).
Advice for students leaving,
take pictures of everything, your street, that cute boutique boy, the taxis...
spend time with your friends and your host family..as much as possible. (also get phone numbers and addresses and make sure they know that you will be in touch)
throw your bucket list away and spend your last few days exploring 'sans projects'
get your souvenirs before the last day you are in your host country ( oops)
however, do take the time to bid adieu to those people who have impacted you during your experience
get music! I am lucky enough to be living in Senegal where the music is off the chain, and cant wait to blast Youssou N'Dour at house parties back at school
do not think about it ending, appreciate the time you had and live it up during your last few days
Dinaa namm Senegal bu bax, wante ba beneen yoon, inchallah. I will miss Dakar immensely.
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