Volunteer Review: Alba M., Building & French in Senegal
Hi! My name is Alba and in July 2016 I embarked on an amazing journey to Senegal with Projects Abroad. I spent two incredible weeks there, taking part in the Short Term, Two Week Care Project with French.
The main reason I chose Senegal as my destination was for the language: French. Since very little I have always been a keen linguist and I wanted to improve my French during the long summer holidays. I also wanted to do something worthwhile and benevolent with my time; so when my friend suggested travelling with Projects Abroad, I jumped at the opportunity!
Arrival and first Impressions:
When I arrived in Senegal, I was a bit nervous as it was my first time abroad without my family. However, to my reassurance, there were other volunteers at the airport with me and on the same flight. We all arrived together and were quickly taken by Projects Abroad staff members to the hotel, allowing us to rest after a long day of travelling. My first impressions were
1) WOW it’s hot!
2) WOW it’s busy!
3) I can’t wait to start!
I met most of the volunteers at the hotel and they were absolutely lovely and very interesting. I was really looking forward to starting my project and meeting my host family!
In the mornings the minibus would come and collect all the volunteers who had French lessons and they would drop us at different schools around the town. In my French lesson I learnt lots! We started off with simple grammar lessons to establish the basics and then my teacher went on to explore the subjunctive tense. I really enjoyed it because the lesson’s were tailored to my level and I was able explore specific topics that were important to me, such as the geography of the country.
As a result of these lessons, my French improved substantially and I began to speak more confidently using the target language. My teacher was really kind and he used every opportunity to maximize my learning experience. After my lessons, I would return to my host family to eat lunch with the other volunteers and my host family. It was lovely to have some time to rest before beginning the Building Project.
In the afternoons we would go to a school, where we built a classroom from scratch. This work was fulfilling and fun because the volunteers used this time to also talk.
In the evenings, Projects Abroad tried to organise as many fun activities for the volunteers as possible. Some evenings we went to a restaurant called ‘The Flamingo’, where we enjoyed some yummy food and a refreshing swim. One evening we went to the market to buy souvenirs for friends and family. It was really funny trying to haggle with the traders – unfortunately I wasn’t very good at it!
I went to Senegal in the summer, when it was their rainy season. It was really humid and hot; you had to be careful not to get sun burnt whilst working in the classroom. Twice during my stay there, we experienced big thunderstorms and it rained non-stop. It was a bit scary because there was thunder and lightning! But at the same time it was really cool and exciting to see (I love studying weather in geography!). After these storms, there was water everywhere and we had to jump over loads of puddles - it was really fun!
The host family were really nice and accommodating. We were told to make ourselves at home as if it were our own home. It was really sweet and our rooms were really nice and comfortable. The food consisted of rice and fish, which was the national dish ‘Thiébou dienne’. It has a peculiar taste but once I got used to it, I found it really yummy. We played a lot with the children; our favourite activities included playing cards, colouring-in and spending a lot of our time playing outside. One of the daughters of my host family was scared of frogs and we spent an afternoon trying to catch the frog that was hopping around her bedroom – I have never laughed so much before! We also got along really well with the girls, Diara and Ami. They would take us grocery shopping with them and we met nearly all of their friends. I will really miss not be able to play with them.
Our last day was really sad because we had to say goodbye to everyone. I will miss everyone: the other volunteers, the Project Abroad staff, my host family and all the amazing kinds of people I met along the way.
I hope to see them soon and I plan to keep in touch with them. I will never forget my amazing experience in Senegal and I recommend everyone to go there.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.