• Senegal
4 - 26 weeks
Program Tags
Adventure Travel Arts College Credit Conservation Cultural Immersion Hands-On Learning Language Immersion Music Post-High School Social Justice Study Abroad Volunteer Abroad +2
Need-based funding, General grants/scholarships, 529 Plan eligibility, BIPOC funding
Health & Safety

Program Details

City Exploring Hiking Remote Exploring
Fall Spring
Guesthouse Host Family Lodge Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
Price Details
The land cost for West Africa Semester: Rhythms of Senegal is $16,550 for three months. Need-based scholarships are available!
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Some Equipment Meals Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Some Equipment Travel Insurance Visa
Sep 28, 2023
Dec 16, 2021
19 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

From agricultural villages to mangrove islands, explore contemporary issues of West Africa while delving into artistic and musical traditions in a culture renowned for its generosity and hospitality. As you walk down the street in Senegal people greet you with the word of peace and strangers invite you into their homes for a cup of tea.

The semester takes us from the French colonial outpost of Saint Louis, to the fast-paced capital of Dakar, all the way to a Sufi Islamic coastal village on a sandy stretch of beach. We stay with multiple local families and meet with leaders, traditional healers, regional development specialists, and other experts in West African history, geography, and philosophy. We study local languages, using our newfound language skills at the market, during our trek, and with the communities which welcome us.

Scholarships and college credit is available.

Video and Photos

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

Unfortunately, discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and skin tone exists in different forms all over the world. In some destinations, especially rural or ethnically homogenous areas, people may not have had much exposure to racial diversity. As such, people with certain physical characteristics may experience unwanted attention. Most commonly, this might include staring, insensitive comments, people taking your photo (with or without asking), or attempts to touch your skin or hair. Black students traveling in parts of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa have often reported higher levels of unwanted attention than their peers. White students traveling in parts of Asia and Africa have also reported receiving unwanted attention. Students are encouraged to communicate with staff if they feel their personal boundaries are being violated or if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any situation. We encourage you to believe your peers if/when they share experiences like this with you.

LGBTQIA+ Support

Social, cultural, religious, political, and legal attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community vary around the world. According to the Global Acceptance Index, average levels of acceptance for LGBTQ+ people around the world have been increasing since 1981. However, many countries where Dragons operates programs may have social discrimination or even laws against being LGBTQ+. We have safely supported LGBTQ+ students in all of our program areas, and provide specific cultural and geographic advice to help students stay safe on course.

In some cases, students may be advised not to speak about their sexual orientations and/or gender identities with local contacts (such as homestay families, ISP mentors, language teachers, and guest speakers) due to safety concerns. Likewise, transgender and non-binary students may have to choose to present outwardly as male or female in certain contexts during the program. In other cases, “coming out” to some or all host community members may be a safe choice.

Neurodivergent Support

For students with neuro-differences (such as dyslexia, ADHD, ASD, TS, and dyspraxia), it is important to be aware that neurodiversity is likely viewed differently abroad than at home. People might not be familiar with labels or terms that are very common where you come from. If you struggle with lots of external stimuli, you should be prepared that you will be in some environments that are louder and busier than what you are used to.

Accessibility Support

If you are a student with a physical disability, you might encounter challenges around accessibility than you have at home. Many of the places we travel at Dragons don’t have building codes or other regulations in place to support people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments. You may need accommodations or support that you don’t usually require in your life at home.



Dragons defines responsible travel as travel that is culturally conscious, environmentally responsible, and focused on developing meaningful connections and mutual respect in the communities to which we travel. Over the course of Dragons 25+ year history, we have cultivated long-standing relationships with respected community leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs and professionals involved in environmental and cultural preservation. In the more than 20 countries in which Dragons has operated, we have steadfastly adhered to minimum impact travel, an accurate and informed understanding of place, and the realization of maximum benefit for the communities we visit.

Ethical Impact

Dragons believes that we need to shift the way we think of volunteer travel. Instead of focusing on “service work”—on the idea that short-term volunteers can contribute to communities abroad—we advocate a paradigm shift: we choose, instead, to focus on “learning service.”

Learning Service is a holistic experience that combines an intimate and authentic engagement with the local community, the study of effective development, and the contribution to an established community-driven project. It is the process of living, working alongside, and humbly absorbing the culture of those being served while coordinating closely with project managers to understand the trajectory of the project, from inception to completion and beyond. It is an acknowledgment that often it is the volunteer who stands to gain as much or more from the work. And it is a commitment to making contributions that create positive impacts in the communities coupled with the humility to always listen and learn first.

Program Highlights

  • Investigate issues of immigration and unemployment, gender issues and children’s rights, abolition of female genital cutting, desertification, land-use, climate change, urban and rural healthcare, colonization, and education.
  • Spend about 6 weeks total in either one or two very remote villages, two weeks in the urban areas of Kolda or Thies, and stay as a group in other communities along the way.
  • Learn about Sufi Islam and the unique Islamic brotherhoods of Senegal, meet Catholic communities, and get an introduction to animism through visiting a local fortune-teller.
  • Climb into horse-carts, public transport, fishing boats, or wander on foot as we travel throughout Senegal. Embark on a multi-day trek from village to village in the green hills of the Southeast and camp out on remote mangrove islands in the Delta.
  • Choose from a wide range of possible topics for mentored study during time in homestays such as drumming, West African dance, storytelling, gender issues, visual arts, traditional medicine, politics, batik, jewelry making, and more.


Where There Be Dragons Financial Aid & 529 Funds

Where There Be Dragons offers need-based financial aid to students that demonstrate reasonable financial need and are excited to engage with communities around the world.

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates

Program Reviews

5.00 Rating
based on 6 reviews
  • 5 rating 100%
  • 4 rating 0%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Housing 4.85
  • Support 5
  • Fun 4.85
  • Value 5
  • Safety 4.85
Showing 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible cultural immersion experience

The Where There Be Dragons summer program in Senegal was the opportunity of a lifetime to really experience another culture with no filters. Students were really allowed to interact and BE in the culture, rather than just looking at it or learning about it from afar. I'll never forget sitting on a mat under the stars with my homestay family, learning simple words in Pulaar, eating grilled corn, looking at a sky full of thousands of stars, and the last evening with them when we danced late into the night under the full moon.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Open your heart and your eyes to a new experience. Forget your expectations and stereotypes about Africa. Be prepared to experience in incredible, welcoming generosity from total strangers. Get ready to have your world opened up, to learn things you didn't know you had to learn, to change your mind about yourself and the world.
74 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Senegal 2016

Towards the end of high school, I was extremely hesitant to take a gap year. Having now completed it, I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do, and that Where There Be Dragons was the right program to go with. I miss Senegal every single day. I had never travelled anywhere other than Europe or North America before I went, and going changed my entire perspective. Senegal overwhelms the senses. The heat, the taste thieboudienne, the songs, the sounds of shouted greetings and the feeling of gritty sand between my toes are all vivid in my memory. It is unbelievable how truly kind and outgoing the people are.

A major part of the reason it was so life changing for me was how Dragons is run. It teaches you the ropes of the culture, the language, how to be safe, and how to get around, while simultaneously allowing you to be extremely independent. Because of this independence, you are able to truly able to integrate yourself into the community as an individual, rather than being sheltered within a group of your own nationality.

The experience is not easy. Going to a country where the food is different, the language is different, the culture is different, the climate is different, and the resources are different is an extremely challenging experience. But it was the difficulty of that experience, and the fact that Dragons allowed me to face the challenge head on, that led me to acquire invaluable life skills and grow immensely as a person.

82 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A life altering experience

I entered a place that I knew little about and came into the lives of people whose language I could barely speak and the connections I made were stronger than anything I could have imagined. Living with a family, walking home to their house everyday and feeling the love and care and warmth they extended to me was a feeling beyond anything I could describe in words. I felt loved and safe and so connected. Over the three months I spent with Dragons In Senegal I was challenged and pushed beyond my comfort zone and within that experience I feel that I grew an exponential amount. I have never felt more in touch and aware of the world around me then I did in that magical vibrant and enchanting place. I carry the memory of my host mothers and siblings and grand parents and neighbors with me everywhere I go. I cannot express enough how much I learned from the moments of deep connection that I shared with the people around me. Dragons gave me a place to grow in a safe and supportive environment and lead me on a path that will forever influence my life decisions in the future.

83 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Quite the Adventure!

This trip was exceptional! Truly! That's not to say that it wasn't difficult, frustrating, and stressful at times but that is what made it so important to my growth as a person and a perfect introduction to the rest of my gap year. I was struck by unexpected homesickness while abroad which was a bummer but the instructors and other students were so caring and did all they could to make me feel better. We studied Wolof, Pulaar, and French and stayed with three different homestay families, two in Senegal and one in Guineau. They were new and challenging and so special. Between when class ended and dinner with our homestay families in Thiès, we had complete and total freedom. We could go anywhere alone or with our peers. We went to the market, the ice cream store, and we took taxis anywhere. It was amazing to be given that opportunity to experience Senegal by ourselves. I don't expect that this liberty is available in many other programs.
Our trip was unusual in the way that it was only females that signed up and there were only seven of us as opposed to the usual twelve participants per Dragons trip. A WTBD trip creates an environment where one tends to get super close to their peers super quickly. By the second day, I felt like our group had broken a barrier that usually takes at least three months to breach. We supported each other without fail and my communication skills improved so much.
After WTBD, I was ready to take on the world. I felt like every challenge I could possibly face, I knew from experience how to deal with it and how not to be fazed by it. After this trip, I went onto volunteer at a dog sled race in the Yukon at -40 degrees, then learn Arabic and intern at a women's nonprofit in Morocco, then climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and none of those experiences challenged me more than the three months I spent in Senegal.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly nothing! It was challenging and it took me a little distance to see the beauty in the challenge and I wouldn't give it up for the world.
82 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

An Incredible Program for a Gap Semester

I recently returned from spending six months in Senegal for my gap year before attending Dickinson College in the fall. The three months I spent with Where There be Dragons were so transformative to my overall gap year experience but also to me. Throughout the program I learned so much, and created such deep connections with both the people I was with in the group but also local communities we were welcomed into so warmly. I stayed in Senegal for three months after the program ended and without being on my own and traveling on my own I would not have realized the extent of how valuable a Dragons program is. The skills I learned through Dragons were the only way I was able to continue traveling on my own, and the only reason that I was able to create opportunities for myself and discover more while staying safe and connecting with new people and communities. I think the most powerful aspects of the Dragons experience for me were the tools and skills we learned that I now know are essential to intentional travel in new spaces and places. Language lessons, history lessons, and independent projects were key in my Dragons experience and helped me create my own connections to my host families and the places we visited. The curriculum is carefully created by the instructors, and also modified by the students with input and planning done by the group and for the group. The instructors offered one on one support but also were mindful in everyone's transitions to traveling and living in a new place and challenged us to always get out of our comfort zones. Only because of my Dragons experience was I confident, skilled and experienced enough to continue traveling on my own in Senegal afterwards. After returning home from Dragons I have a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation to continue learning about this part of the globe that is so often forgotten by our history classes but also I am inspired and curious to explore new places and because of the skills I gained through Dragons I am so thankful to say that I know I can go to those places safely while having the adventure of a lifetime and continuing to learn and grow.

What would you improve about this program?
Dragons has really great financial aid and a dedicated staff to find scholarships, but the price is a little steep while it is well worth every cent.
89 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

WTBD team Senegal!

When I was a senior in HS, I decided I needed to take time off from school. I decided to go to Senegal with WTBD for a semester and It completely changed my life and how I see the world. From homestays in large cities to trekking in the forests of southern Senegal to living in a rural village, this program covers everything you could possibly want from a gap semester program and more! I've learned how to respect others and their culture and how to be a successful global citizen. If you want to broaden your horizons, make new friends, push yourself to leave your comfort zone and learn about the world at the same time, do this program!

What would you improve about this program?
During the trek, we were instructed to pack too many things in our bags which consequently made them very heavy and hard to hike with. Granted, our trek was shortened due to sickness so we had excess material.
90 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

At the beginning you will, to better understand and learn cultural norms and language then as you become more comfortable the instructors challenge you to be more independent. The last part of the trip before transference phase it expedition phase where the students lead the trip themselves, it’s a culmination and application of all their learning and was really rewarding for me.