CIEE Language + Culture in Senegal, Dakar

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Students of the Language and Culture program in Dakar, Senegal are eager to seize opportunities—live and study in a French-speaking West African country, considered by many to be one of the most developed and democratic nations in that region; explore Senegalese society and develop and/or acquire language skills in French and Wolof; engage in true cultural immersion by living with a Senegalese family; participate in a community service project.

If you’re ready to seize the opportunities, the Language and Culture program in Dakar is ready for you.

Study abroad in Dakar and you will:

- Choose from a variety of courses in African studies, development studies, anthropology, and sociology

- Live with a Senegalese family that will provide strong cultural immersion

- Participate in African art, dance, and music; engage in community service and/or an internship

- Visit Gorée Island, Toubab Dialaw, Saint Louis, and the Sine-Saloum region

Questions & Answers


based on 3 reviews
  • Academics 5.3
  • Support 7.7
  • Fun 8.3
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 8
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"Lu baax rekk"

(Warning, some study abroad tropes to follow....)
I spent the semester with CIEE in Sénégal, and had a wonderful experience. Program activities, starting with the memorable ceebu jen on the terrace of the study center on day one and ending with the pirogue ride from Mar Lodj to Ndangane after a weekend on the island, provided fun events to look forward to and experience. However they were not so numerous that I could not create my own structure and life within Sénégal, and I found I had ample time to pursue other activities and relationships outside the program. I believe my favorite organized feature of the semester was the week spent in a rural village far away from the busy urban sprawl of the capital. I made some incredible friends during my village stay with whom I am still in touch, and I know that relationship will always remain. I found my deepest and most satisfying connection to this country was provided by the language skills I gained in Wolof and Serer, and would highly encourage those who are interested in the program to understand Senegal in its native languages. CIEE helped me with that, being the lily pad of language classes from which one can jump into Dakar from the very first day! I only recommend that future students shed their expectations and allow themselves to experience the full challenge of being in a totally new culture. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, whether you're speaking French or Wolof or trying to pour the perfect cup of ataaya. Make friends within CIEE, as they will be your support system throughout an experience that will be extremely difficult at times. But take time to be on your own and meet the culture head-on. The title of this post comes from something a friend of mine would say - take what is good from the past and leave the rest. My life is forever changed because of the love I have for Sénégal, and I know many parts of what I have brought with me to the present are enriched by the lessons I learned within and because of CIEE.

How can this program be improved?
A few changes -
Make the study center a place where French is really emphasized and used. Don't just do 2 days a week where students are supposed to speak French only but no one really cares if they don't. I thought it would be a more intensive French experience within the student body, and I understand that you want to be inclusive of more students but it was really challenging to improve on French - a goal nearly every student mentioned- when you don't practice it with your friends!
Also, the staff changes during the middle of the program - we lost two of our closest staff friends because of administrative issues - were poorly handled from the lens of the common good. Though the reasons for the firings may have been legitimate, students were notified by email, which is a cold and confusing way to find out that you won't see your friend at school the next day. Additionally, one staff member was let go with 2 weeks until the end of the program, which was unfortunate timing during a moment where we needed all the support we could get. I think the administration sufficiently understands how this unfortunate situation affected the students, and I hope that in the future, conflict is dealt with in a way that is open and graceful. For example, I don't think tensions were so high that the teacher needed to leave at that very moment. Another two weeks, which fly by, and in which students are at their most confident and comfortable in the culture, would not have been too much to ask to keep a smooth operation. Instead many students were upset and confused. Open communication and a good understanding and perspective of the group well-being will aid this program in the future.
Yes, I recommend this program
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CIEE Dakar

CIEE Study abroad program in Dakar allows one to immerse themselves in Senegalese culture and experience the Senegalese teranga in one of the most authentic forms. I appreciated the facilitated discussions the program provided on studying abroad in a developing country, privilege, and colonialism because it made the experience more impactful. I loved living with a host family and was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about myself and the world in which I live.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My Happy Place

Over the course of my four months in Dakar, it came to be one of my favorite places on earth. It was difficult to transition to the way of life there- especially with regard to language- but through all the difficult times I was able to find sincere joy. My host family was warm and generous, though it took some time for them to open up to me and my very broken French. I spent a lot of time with them cooking, eating, and talking. I went to them with my issues of the day and they gave me candid advice on how to move forward. I also developed lasting friendships with Senegalese 20-somethings in my neighborhood. By spending so much time with them, my French grew exponentially and I got to see much more of Dakar. We walked to the beach often, sat drinking tea while discussing the pertinent issues of the day (including the upcoming football matches), and danced until the wee hours of the morning every weekend. I am thankful to still be in contact with many of them today, and I hope to go back to visit this year. My school experience was not very difficult, yet my learning over the four months was immense. This program is very much about experiential learning and growth. Yes, I learned plenty in the classroom, but it was more often the conversations I had with my friends and those I met that were more impactful. This is what makes this program so wonderful; it gives you the space and support to go and see Dakar for yourself. They lead excursions and trips, but this program is made all the better the more you allow yourself to go and see the city and country.
With that, I advise you ask a lot of questions to your host family and the directors, especially about pricing for taxis and goods. I bought countless yards of fabric for too high a price and many taxis that were more expensive because of my American-ness. So be aware and don't be afraid to haggle for the right price. By the end you will have fun doing it!
I met some of my dearest friends here, and my life is drastically different because I met them and spent this time in Dakar. I highly recommend this program and the experience that it offers you to grow as an independent young person in this spectacular city.

How can this program be improved?
Better communication from the directors.
Yes, I recommend this program

About CIEE

A nonprofit, non-governmental organization, CIEE is the world leader in international study and exchange programs. For 65 years, CIEE has helped thousands of students, professionals, and educators gain the knowledge and skills necessary to live and...