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Defining Community

By mhaimbodi

The concept of community becomes more important than ever when you are traveling/living  abroad. While total integration is not really possible within the first few months (or ever), there are certain people and places that can definitely make you feel more at ease amidst new surroundings. I have attached a couple of mine:

One of the first things that I wanted to do upon my arrival in Dakar was find a running route. At home I run everyday, and before coming I was a little anxious as to whether or not I would be able to do the same here. It turns out that the neighborhood I live in, Ouakam, is right next to one of the longest roads in Dakar (Route de la Corniche) that literally borders the Atlantic Ocean.  I have made it a habit to run around 6:30/7 most evenings after getting home from school, as the sun is setting then and it is much cooler. For the first couple of weeks I had to adjust to the unfamiliarity of where I was, and all of the car exhaust as I am not used to running right next to main roads, but now the ease of finding my way and knowing where I am going is really comforting. Every day I feel more and more acclimated to my surroundings, and the euphoria that accompanies running is something that makes me feel even more at home.

The CIEE study center is another place that provides me with a sense of community. It is where all of my classes are located, and where I am able to see all of the other program participants all at once. During my first few weeks in Dakar it was definitely the place I frequented the most, and although I have branched out in terms of where I do work and use the internet, I will always regard it as a landmark and safe-space. The Senegalese staff at CIEE have also been integral to me adjusting to my surroundings (though I don't have a picture of them), and without their hard work and efforts to make all of our transitions seamless, my first few weeks would not have been the same.
This last picture of Dakar was taken on an island, Île de Ngor, that I went to a few weekends ago with a group of friends. Although this specific place doesn't provide a community, traveling and organizing things with friends abroad has definitely been a highlight and a chance to break out of the classroom mode. There are so many beautiful places to discover here in Dakar, and in Senegal at large, and each new one reminds me that there is so much of the world we have not seen and do not know about. The fact that there is always something else out there can provide comfort in itself!