However, there are lots of programs to choose from. I'm going to do a brief run-down of the options I encountered and offer my completely biased opinion on most of them. Links to the home-pages are provided, where I could find them.
- Mount Holyoke Spring Semester in Dakar [my program!]. You stay with a home-stay. You stay for 4 - 5 months. You are taken on 2 - 3 awesome field trips, but otherwise, you stay in Dakar. You take 5 - 6 classes, which are very easy, except the final projects sneak up on you. You are told that you can take classes at University Cheikh Anta Diop, which is kind of true, but you end up taking all of your classes at the WARC (West African Research Center) and a few at IFÉÉ (Institute de Français pour étudiants étrangèrs). WARC is also the home-base for the Wells College, Michigan State, and Minnesota University programs. [Strangely, I could not find the Mt. Holyoke page on Dakar; here's an article instead.]
- Wells College in Dakar. Also, I think, a spring semester program. You stay with a home-stay. You stay for 4 months. You are taken on 2 - 3 awesome field trips, but otherwise, you stay in Dakar. Similar academically to Mount Holyoke; Wells, Mt. H., and Michigan study abroad students take all of their classes together at the WARC.
- Michigan State in Dakar. Also, I think, a spring semester deal. You stay with a home-stay. You stay for 4 - 5 months. You are taken on 2 - 3 awesome field trips, but otherwise, you stay in Dakar. Similar academically to Mount Holyoke; Wells, Mt. H., and Michigan study abroad students take all of their classes together at the WARC.
- MSID Senegal. You can come for the fall or for the spring or stay for the whole year. You stay with a home-stay, both in Dakar and in a more rural internship placement. The MSID students who were at the WARC in the spring took classes separately, like an intensive Wolof Language course, for 6 weeks. Then they left for Spring Break, and then they were placed in smaller cities and villages for a 4 - 5 week internship. The MSID students who were at the WARC for the year were rarely in Dakar but instead working and researching in their internships.
- Suffolk University in Dakar. Though the campus was right next to my house, I only visited once or twice. I don't know much at all about the program, but it seems terrific: a great way to meet students from all over Africa, not just Americans. You still stay with home-stays and still get 2 -3 awesome field trips. Check out the link.
- CIEE in Dakar. Also a program that I know nothing about, but looks cool.
Now, for something completely different: ART in DAKAR for the bi-annual DAKART Festival. We didn't get to see as much of it as we liked, but Kelli and Carlee and I checked out La Manege while doing some downtown shopping. I had already seen this particular installation with Dian, Logan, and Frankie (a big opening), but it was nice to see it again, without the crowds.
Two goats, painted with black splotches, as part of an art installation at Galérie la Manege
Interior of Galérie la Manege, which is run by the French Cultural Institute
...and if I haven't convinced you yet that you should come to Dakar, let me add that going to study in Dakar was probably the best decision I've ever taken a really long time making. I knew it was something I should do, and then it became something I wanted to do, and then I finally did it--studying abroad in Senegal, that is. My cluelessness at the start was defeated by my curiosity, which saw me through most of the semester. And it felt good.
I don't want to say that study abroad, and Africa in particular, is a "life changing" experience. That's a little too romantic. I can't promise epiphanies. Plus, your life is always changing.
But I am a different (better?) person with different (bigger?) dreams, now that I have gone and returned (and will go again). If you don't want to go to Senegal, at least consider the African continent. If you don't want to go to Africa, at least still consider studying abroad. I left Yale, probably the best educational institution in the world, for an entire semester, and I don't regret it. Neither will you.