Ba Beenen Yoon! (“Until next time” in Wolof)

Life back in America! I can’t believe I’m home already. The last four months flew by and were filled with many memorable and life changing experiences. It’s difficult to put into word the mark that Africa and Senegal has left on my heart.  It’s been a rougher adjustment than I planned.

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal… “Reverse culture shock” is the proper name. And it’s just another opportunity to take my experience and apply it in terms of normal life. G.K. Chester said, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” America is foreign to me right now, yet this is why I love to travel! I feel that my adventure to Africa makes me a better American and permits me to live life and be more aware of my surroundings. Traveling is what brings life- no wonder most humans enjoy traveling.

So now what!?!? In five short months I will graduate with my undergraduate degree. I will have some big life changes- graduate school, work, travel? Such big decisions, but my dream is to combine all three. I am applying to three graduate programs and working hard to achieve my dream of becoming a foreign service officer. And Africa? I WILL go back. I have to because it means so much to me.  It has taught me valuable lessons that I hope to integrate, particularly the power in community, the value of creating long lasting relationships, and understanding the precious truth that people are what matter most, not material things.

I already had a funny experience with my new “Africanized” self. In Brussels, I had a long layover, so my friend Nobi and I decide to go downtown and check out the Christmas market. We stopped at a waffle shop (because how could you go to Belgium and not get a waffle???), and I started talking with the waffle lady. “How are you?” “How is your family?”  She gave the strangest look and sheepishly muttered “OK.” I realized that we don’t ask people about their personal life in western culture. She was probably thinking that I was a stalker or I was trying to get a favor from her. I hope to be more open because of my study abroad time in Senegal. I believe deep down people enjoy this little piece of Africa, even though their culture might be screaming “Stranger Danger!” I’m grateful that my cultural blindfold has been lifted up for a few months to better enjoy the world around me.

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