For Starters | Abroad Jitters
Whenever people ask about my upcoming semester abroad, I answer the same way. I say I’m incredibly excited—itching to go.
The truth is, I’m terrified. I have never been so far from home, never been to a country where English isn’t a primary language, and never spent more than a month away from my family. I grew up in Maine, went to college in Maine, and now I am headed to Senegal—on Africa’s west coast. As the days creep by, I get more and more anxious.
Now, on the verge of the scariest adventure of my life, I am ready to challenge myself. I am prepared to be in a place where I am fighting a constant battle just to communicate. I am ready to feel uncomfortable and awkward, sometimes lonely, and I am ready to write about all of it for insideColby.
The program I am embarking on is called Senegal: National Identity and the Arts. I believe this program combines my passions into one semester—dance, writing, new people, new languages. I want to go to Senegal to be thrown far from my comfort zone and to speak one language I’m learning to understand (French) and one I haven’t even begun to understand (Wolof, the primary native language). In Senegal I expect to be at times ignorant but always to use my education and be ready to learn.
During my last month abroad I will conduct an independent ethnography exploring opportunities and resources available for middle- and high-school-aged women and resources they might seek. I plan to research if there are any communities of young women or venues through which these resources might be created. Since one of the themes of my program is Senegalese identity, I am interested in how young women in Senegal define themselves in relation to other young women and the rest of their community.
As I write I am about two weeks away from stepping on the plane. I haven’t packed, haven’t finished work, and can’t remember all that much French. I’ve said a few haphazard goodbyes to Colby friends already overseas for the semester—in Chile, Italy, Ireland, and Uganda. I don’t think any of us have quite realized how long it will be before we see each other and how much we might change before that happens.
Truth is, I am excited and scared. But as my friend Jenny Stephens ’12 pointed out when I was stressing: “Hannah, have you ever heard anyone come back from going abroad and say they regretted it?”
Anthropology major and insideColby staff writer Hannah DeAngelis ’12 will send updates from Senegal throughout the semester. Keep checking here to see how she’s doing.