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Howard University student dives into the Senegalese culture by learning Wolof for one month

Ofosuwa Abiola“I went back to college as I am working on my PhD in history for which my focus is Senegal; I wanted to experience the Senegalese culture and learn Wolof - the most popular Senegalese language,” said Ofosuwa Abiola (51). She decided to travel to Senegal with Projects Abroad to participate in their Wolof Language Course.

Ofosuwa was placed with a Senegalese teacher for her Wolof classes during her one month stay. Even though she came with no knowledge of Wolof, she was able to, after some lessons, start conversations with people on the streets. “I put all my lessons together on my computer, it is quite a book,” she said as she showed her notes. Her first lessons focused on vocabulary; later they included more grammar and some usage notions. Finally, her last week focused on conversation skills.

“I loved being able to jump in there and experience it fully without having to worry about my safety, as Senegal is a pretty safe place,” she said about experiencing life in the Senegalese culture. Ofosuwa enjoyed walking, sharing the daily life of the community; the markets were some of her favorite places. “I loved going to the market places, looking at the stores, bargaining with the vendors.” The latter being uncommon in the USA, “At home it [bargaining] does not exist, the price is set, you buy or you don’t.” Ofosuwa will never forget the kindness of the Senegalese people, “People gave me lots of gifts and did not expect anything from me.”

Ofosuwa AbiolaDuring her stay, Ofosuwa lived with a Senegalese family, “Staying with a Senegalese host family was one of the best parts of my experience,” she said. “The fact of being a part of the family; there is no word for this.” Her most memorable part living with the family was celebrating Christmas with them. “It was such a big celebration with the big family; the members of the family all came back home, we sat around the table, ate and discussed all day. It was so nice, with lots of food and different Senegalese drinks.”

To any other person thinking of such an experience, Ofosuwa definitely recommends it, “Projects Abroad is really good; everything is included and well taken care of.” To future volunteers she says: “Do not be afraid to jump in with both feet.”

Ofosuwa’s three words to characterize Senegal are: Beautiful, friendly and embracing. “Beautiful because of the surroundings; I lived so close to the water and I was able to go and just sit on a bench and let the wind blow on my face and look at the animals. The friendliness of the people that come to you, speak with you with no inhibitions, and help you if needed. Senegal draws you in and embraces you so that you never want to leave.”

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