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Student Preps for Semester in Senegal


KateLynn Whitney '16 is about to embark on a transformative adventure.

The Psychology and Elementary Education double major from Ellsworth, Maine was recently awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, enabling her to study in Dakar, Senegal next semester. The aspiring teacher, who serves as a mentor for the Simmons Chapter of Strong Women Strong Girls, is excited to immerse herself in the Senegalese culture. That will mean speaking two foreign languages -- French and the Senegalese language of Wolof -- and eschewing her smartphone for a simpler life.

Find out why KateLynn chose to leave her comfort zone, and learn how you can broaden your horizons during your time at Simmons.

How did you find out about the Gilman Scholarship?
I heard about it through the Study Abroad Office here at Simmons. This scholarship has a lot of criteria that you have to fulfill to be eligible. The application also requires two essays: a personal statement and a proposal for a follow-on service project.
Why do you think you were chosen?
I am traveling to a destination that is not as commonly heard of, I will be studying two languages, and I had two very strongly written essays that supported my reasoning behind traveling abroad.
Why did you choose to study in Senegal?
Initially I was looking into studying abroad in France or Belgium; somewhere French speaking due to my interest and studies with the language. However, as I looked deeper into the francophone culture I discovered the country of Senegal. Senegal is unique because its people live much more simply than the people of western culture. It is also unique because not only do the people speak French, but they speak a native language called Wolof as well.
I thought studying abroad there would be the perfect opportunity to escape from the modern, technological way of life. Free from these distractions, I will have a better chance to connect with myself, the French and Wolof Languages, and the beautiful simplicity of the Senegalese culture.
What will your semester be like?
I will be studying in Dakar, Senegal through the CIEE Language and Culture program for the entire spring semester. I will be enrolled in five classes at the CIEE Study Center including language classes in French and Wolof, a core history/background of Senegal course, a course on environmental impact and development, and an education and culture course.
The program has some pretty amazing excursions and trips to other places besides Dakar. For example, I will be able to go visit the historic Goree Island and see the slave museum and women's museum. I will also go on a trip to Toubab Dialaw which is a fishing village and artist colony and learn some traditional African dancing and drumming. It's also a requirement that I spend a week in a rural village outside the city of Dakar enabling me to compare and contrast life in the rural areas to life in a more urban setting.
During my stay I will be living with a Senegalese family in a neighborhood close to the CIEE Study Center. I think that this aspect is going to be most beneficial in helping me fully immerse myself into their culture. I will have daily contact with people who speak the French and Wolof languages and I will be able to grasp the Senegalese simplicity first hand. My family here in the US means a lot to me, so I hope that my family in Senegal will mean just as much.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I hope to become more fluent in the French language. I want to just take it all in and come back and spread my newfound knowledge through my family, friends and through teaching in the future.
What aspect of the experience are you most excited about?
I don't think that I can really pinpoint one thing that I am most excited about for my semester abroad. I guess I would have to say meeting my family. I can't wait to have a mom, dad, brothers, sisters on two separate continents!
How has your time at Simmons prepared you to study abroad?
I think Simmons has definitely helped me start to forge a path to success. It has opened my mind to an entirely different world that most people from Maine are very closed off from. Being accepted to Simmons was a huge feat in itself, and I am so thankful that they have helped provide me with the opportunity to continue my personal growth and the ability to broaden my outlook on life and the world in general.
What are your goals for life after Simmons?
I really want to teach at the elementary level and positively impact children's little brains as much as possible before they have to go on and make huge life decisions. I think that it would be really awesome to go back to Senegal and teach English or something in the schools that I visit during my stay. It's just an idea though. I'm the type of person that sets goals that are more flexible for interpretation and change because I want to keep as many doors open for myself as possible.
Any words of advice for your fellow students, or students starting at Simmons next year?
My advice for current or future Simmons students looking to study abroad is give yourself time, do your research on the country, figure out if you think it will be a good fit for who you are and your future goals, and use your resources. The study abroad office here at Simmons is extremely helpful and don't be afraid to ask them anything. The program directors and advisors for the program you decide to study abroad through are also super helpful and are only a phone call away. Friends and family will be your rock at the base of it all. They are the ones that will help edit the content of your millions of essays in the best way possible because they know who you truly are. Then of course The Writing Center is great for organization and grammatical errors after!
Lastly, never think that your dreams are too big or impractical because they're probably not. Anything is possible with a little determination and belief in yourself!

Posted by Andrea Gimler

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Andrea Gimler published on December 6, 2013 2:39 PM.

SOM Dean Works to Close Pay Gap was the previous entry in this blog.

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