Thursday, October 30, 2008

The two things I DON’T like about Senegal

This experience has been life changing, so far, and has exposed me to so many new and different things. The culture is bright, lively, and full of unexpected twists and turns, the people are exciting and inquisitive, and the fact that everything is unlike anything I have encountered before, has made this an unforgettable study abroad. I am extremely fortunate to be abroad right now, and wouldn’t exchange it for anything. I can’t thank enough people for this opportunity.

However, as much as I love this place, one quote will always resonate with me in regards to going through the infamous STAGE TWO. A fellow American on the program says, every time I am frustrated, angry, or sad about being in Senegal, I just remember that I don’t have to stay here, nor do I really live here, and that I am American. Now, as much as that quote may make it seem like I want to get out of this place ASAP, I really do not. I am simply in stage two. Stage two, or cultural confrontation, is characterized by confusion and frustration with feelings that have shifted from very positive to extremely negative, a view that is monopolized by wanting to do things back home, and discouragement or doubt with whether adjustment is even possible. So, here are the two things that really frustrate me about Senegal…


The Senegalese education system has made me realize how fortunate I am to have an education in the United States of America. The value of an education in the states is so valuable, and I would not exchange anything for my college education at Wooster. In Senegal, there are no plans or syllabi, everything is about being “flexible”, and classes are driven more by the students, not the teachers. Teachers expect students to have questions (which in the states is very much encouraged), but they expect you to have questions on topics that they have not given you any information or readings on.

Also, there is no sense of ownership in Senegal; there is plagiarism left and right here. I witnessed a Senegalese student completely cut and paste an entire presentation. Unfortunately, there is no explanation for why students, and even professors, do this. As American university students, it is hard to explain what copyrights are and what the concept of ownership is because everything in Senegal is about sharing and teranga…what’s his is mine and what’s yours is hers!


It’s not racism, but it is the classification of people based on looks and perceptions. In Senegal, they classify everyone and I know that it is part of their culture, or so they say it is, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. I don not like it.

There have been an infinite amount of times when I have been walking down the street and someone points to me and says one of the following: chinois, chin-chin, de chine ou de japon, or ching-chon-chi-king. I respond with I am American and they laugh at me, I respond with ca va and they say don’t pretend your French, I respond with oui and they continue to mock. There has never been a time in my life where I have been ashamed to be Chinese or of Asian descent. I am an Asian-American. I ate rice when I was little. I celebrate Chinese New Year. I know a few things about being Chinese. I eat dim-sum. I even speak a little bit of Chinese.

So, maybe I am just confused, am I American or am I Chinese? If I am Chinese then Daniel is Irish. If I am Chinese then Sarah is German. If I am Chinese then Myra is French and Mexican.

SIGNED, frustrated "american"

1 comment:

Maryse said...

Bonsoir Alex,
Je viens de lire ton blog et ce que tu dis qui ne te plaît pas au Sénégal. C'est vrai. Il faut l'accepter comme faisant partie de la culture des Africains. De plus, en ce moment les Chinois sont assez mal vus en Afrique car ils voudraient tout prendre. Cela fait peut aux Africains. Dommage que tu en sois victime ! Cela fait partie de l'expérience que tu vas acquérir dans ce pays. Je vois qu'il y a beaucoup d'autres choses intéressantes que tu as visitées et découvertes. Cela te fera des souvenirs formidables plus tard. Ce soir nous attendons comme vous le résultat des élections aux Etats-Unis. Nous espérons que tu as pu voter et que tu as fait le bon choix !
Ici à Besançon, il fait déjà un peu froid (12°) environ. C'est l'automne. Nous allons partir 4 jours à Paris pour nous promener et visiter. A bientôt ! Bon courage.
Maryse et Jean-Pierre.