A semester in Senegal

By Hannah Claire Schuh

As a senior about to graduate, I find myself looking back on all of the different experiences that college has afforded me. When thinking back on the past four years, I cannot help but dwell on my semester spent in Senegal. As a Modern Languages and Cultures major, I decided to focus on the French language. Through my different classes at Pace, I learned about other areas where French is spoken as an official language. In one class, in particular, I remember a professor talking about a previous student of hers who had studied abroad in Senegal and how much she enjoyed her time there. Inspired, I started researching different programs, and the next thing I knew, I was going to Dakar! As I reflect on these memories, I am so glad that I spend an entire semester in a country with such a rich culture, diverse landscapes, and such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere- a little something called Teranga in Wolof.

A second-semester sophomore, I was the youngest student in our cohort. Our group consisted of ten students from the US who attended schools all over the country and ten students based in Senegal who all studied at UCAD, Universite Cheikh Anta Diop, in Dakar. We would take classes together Monday through Wednesday, and then every weekend, we would go on some excursion. Memorable was the city of Touba, the Holy City for those who are part of the Mouride brotherhood, Goree Island, and the house of Leopold Senghor, who was the first president of Senegal, an influential writer in the Negritudes movement, and one of the creators of the Organisation International de la Francophonie. 

My favorite part about our program was that we were such a small group, making it easy to make friends and connections. Another highlight of the program had the opportunity to stay with a host family. I was placed with another student from the US, and we made the most fun memories with our host family. In our house, there were three children, their parents, their aunt, and their grandparents. As my roommate did not speak French or Wolof, and our host family only spoke those languages, I was often charged with the task of translating. At first, this was a little bit intimidating, but I ended up learning a lot and becoming much more confident in my abilities as the semester went on. In addition, our host siblings studied English at school, so they loved teaching my roommate and me different songs that they were learning, and as we were in a Wolof class, we would show them what we had learned in our class as well.

For the second half of the semester, everyone in our program either worked on an independent research project or worked an internship. I decided to work at a high school as an English Language assistant as I had been having so much fun with my host siblings talking about English. At this internship, I met so many outstanding teachers who allowed me to join their class and had the students ask me questions about English, America, or anything else they wanted to talk about it. All of my teachers were so kind, and they taught me many different skills for learning languages. By the end of my month at the school, I even was able to conduct my class!

Getting to know so many students and building relationships with excellent teachers is the highlight of my time abroad. It even inspired me to find similar experiences post-grad! As my Pace path is coming to an end, I have by the French government to work as an English assistant in middle and high schools! I am so thankful for my many unique experiences in Senegal, and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead.

About Me

Hannah, a Modern Languages and Cultures Major in the class of 2021 is originally from Lake Forest, California.  Her favorite class in high school was French which is what inspired her to choose her major.  While at Pace, Hannah was involved in Kappa Delta Sorority, where she served on the executive board, National Residence Hall Honorary, Student Government Association, and worked as a Peer Leader, a Queerleader, and spent two summers as an Orientation Leader.  During her sophomore year, Hannah had the opportunity to study abroad in Senegal where she was able to practice her French skills and learn some Wolof and Serere.