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.