Matt Manley '11
My name is Matt Manley (Aka Mansour Diongue) and I am an English major. I studied abroad spring semester on the CIEE Dakar, Senegal – Language and Culture program.
What do you feel you accomplished academically?
The CIEE academic program, as well as day-to-day life, especially challenged me in my language acquisition. Having taken only three semesters of French at Whitman, I was challenged to speak French at all times (and very poorly at the start). I also took an introductory course in Wolof, one of the numerous national languages of Senegal. Knowledge of Wolof not only ingratiated me to locals, but its syntactical makeup and vocabulary also gave me insight into Senegalese culture. Finally, my 'Culture and Education' course allowed me to study extensively the Senegalese education system, in the process visiting public and private elementary schools, a Koranic school (or Daara ), as well as a Dakar non-profit providing education to street children. As someone considering a career in education, studying abroad allowed me to pursue education studies through an entirely new lens.
Did you encounter any major challenges while studying off campus?
My most significant challenge was probably my low level of French proficiency at the outset of the program. Through daily conversations with my homestay family and neighborhood friends, though, I was conversational at the end of four months. I even had enough courage to try my Wolof every once in a while, and it certainly came in handy when bargaining for soccer jerseys at the market!
Did you participate in an internship, a volunteer experience, or an independent study project while on your program? If so, what did you do?
During the semester, I volunteered with CIPFEM, a non-profit founded by former CIEE students. The mission of CIPFEM is to empower Senegalese young women by developing confidence, educational focus, and leadership skills. I worked 2-4 hours per week tutoring and playing games after school with girls in the Grand Yoff neighborhood of Dakar. While the CIEE program did not facilitate my placement, being in Dakar also allowed me to find a summer internship with Tostan, a human-rights teaching NGO headquartered in Dakar. Working for Tostan, I extended my stay abroad two months after the program, documenting the activities of the Tostan program in the city of Mbour.
What were your living accommodations?
I was placed with a wonderful homestay family in the Oukam neighborhood of Dakar. I routinely played soccer and practiced my Mbalaax dancing with my four older brothers, helped my younger sister with her English homework and reviewed her poetry, and cooked with my mother and older sister.
Do you have any comments or suggestions for future off-campus study students?
DO IT. Try everything, refuse to take offense, and live in a homestay. These are my basic criteria. Also think very critically about why you want to go abroad and what your goals are for your time away. I chose Senegal very specifically because I wanted to experience significant cultural difference (not Western Europe), language immersion, and live with a host-culture family.