My different communities abroad have made me think critically about my identity in many ways. Per my first post, where I elaborated on the complexities of blackness around the world, it has been interesting having now been in Dakar for over two months and seeing where I fit in. I am one of the few students of color in my program that is composed of university students from around the US. This has been an interesting adjustment to make because my social circle back at GW is mainly black students and other people of color. On top of that, this is my first time traveling and living anywhere in Africa with a group of other Americans. At my study center, one of my greatest sources of community here, there is also a law school that is composed solely of Senegalese students. There is no forced separation between the two schools, and we are encouraged to talk to the law students and make friendships, etc. However, there is a natural separation that comes with taking different classes on different floors of the building, and the language barrier that still persists with French and Wolof. This dynamic - especially compared to my friend groups at GW - has caused me to reflect on what it means for me to be an American abroad because at least in this instance I am definitely seen as a part of a larger group, and that is something that I have never had to do so vividly. Furthermore, what it means to be one of a few students of color in a large group of Americans.
The running route that I have in Dakar was another community that I referenced in my last post. I think that more than anything, this has supported and strengthened my notion that I am independent, but it has also reassured me that there are parallels between people when we least expect them. Running has solidified my sense of independence because I made myself familiar with my running paths without any guide. That is not to say that the paths are challenging, and that people have not run them before, but in a new city with a completely different climate I was proud to do this alone. The feeling of independence is also matched with a feeling of comfort because of all the other people that I pass whenever I am on a run. A simple head nod, smile, or thumbs up from a fellow runner is enough to remind me that being in charge/control of what I am doing does not mean that I have to be completely isolated. I am running alongside people from completely different backgrounds, and with a wide range (young to old men and women, some running in flip flops and some in tracksuits), and this has reminded me that even in the midst of minor identity confusion I can still feel a part of something.