author avatar

Charlotte Benishek

Charlotte’s intense curiosity about other countries and cultures has led her all over the world, and her time at the United World College in New Mexico has only intensified her interest in international issues. Charlotte has a passion for spending time in the wilderness and learning about nature, and she is excited to observe the native plant and animal life in her Global Citizen Year placement.


A Saturday Night in the Sahel

March 28, 2012

To be clear, the following occurred and was partially written in early February, but for various reasons I only finished the post recently: Megan, Kaya and I set out from my backyard, among the trash and goat poop, just as the dry heat of the Sahel Desert began to diminish, making the five mile walk...

Read More

Dancing Shoes

March 12, 2012

Recently Megan, another fellow from my region, and I sat in the sand deeply daydreaming in the unique way that only occurs when you have absolutely nothing else to do. “How can I best show Leona (my host community) to people at home?” I mused, slightly frustrated, having been unable to answer the question myself....

Read More

On Backpacks and Ballots

February 7, 2012

One morning as I sat on the mat in the sand in Megan’s village, drinking my ataya, I watched Ibrahima, her six year old brother leaving for school, carrying his little backpack. This reminded me of how my little brother and all of the students in first grade in my village had recently received free...

Read More

Video Blog!

January 24, 2012

Up to this point my blogs have focused on specific experiences or “ponderings” about Senegalese culture and international development.  I designed this first video blog to portray a more macroscopic view of my bridge year experience.  I also wanted to showcase the variety of skills I’ve acquired and things I’ve learned in Senegal.  Enjoy the...

Read More

The Nutella Question

December 21, 2011

I wrote this blog entry about three weeks into my stay in Senegal, while I was still in training, living in Dakar. It was lost in the bowels of my computer, but it is now found and posted, three months late, for your pondering: Nutella. It’s a personal vice. Not just any Nutella – the...

Read More

The Next Step

December 8, 2011

“What is that prescription for?” I ask the nurse at the local health post as she scribbled on her notepad. “Hypertension,” she replies. “Is that a common problem here?” In response, she pushed the record book across her desk and pointed to the “diagnosis” column. Common would be an understatement. Surveying the column, I estimated...

Read More

Explaining Myself

December 2, 2011

The preferred form of public transportation in Leona is the “auto,” a pickup truck from the 1960’s (and rarely a slightly later model) with a sort of frame affixed over the bed to facilitate squeezing the maximum number of humans inside (and on top) for the journey. Like the locals, this is the primary means...

Read More

My New Skills

November 23, 2011

Before I left for Senegal, I expected to learn most through my apprenticeship. However, much to my surprise, I have gained numerous skills and insights from just participating in everyday life in a rural village in Senegal for a month. Although I haven’t done much formal work for my apprenticeship yet, I acquire new skills...

Read More

A New Approach

November 16, 2011

Four weeks ago I was dropped off in Lèona, energetic, optimistic and above all impatient to begin my apprenticeship. The only problem was the vagueness of my assignment of “working with the Millennium Villages Project.” There is no central office here in Lèona, but the effects of the project are clearly visible – a new...

Read More

Trash, Trash, Trash

November 3, 2011

One of the most prominent features of the average street in my rural village of Leona, aside from the sand, is the trash. It lines the streets — mainly plastic bags, packaging, the occasional discarded sandal. Plastic and processed goods have reached rural Senegal, but there is simply no centralized location to discard them when...

Read More

Navigating Sandaga Market

October 7, 2011

I’ve been shopping downtown several times over the course of my stay in Dakar. Shopping in Senegal is a different experience from shopping in the US, and you need some specific skills to be successful. I’ve learned a lot about the Senegalese style of shopping in just a month. Here are some useful tips for a toubab shopping...

Read More

Catching the Monkey

October 3, 2011

Of all the Wolof words and phrases I learned during my one week stay in Leona, the village where I will work and live this year, I can easily identify that which I’ve seen most represented in the Senegalese psyche. “Ndank a ndank,” or little by little, was a constant refrain during my stay. Actually,...

Read More

Sandal Tan

September 9, 2011

Every morning my sandals trace a path from my family’s house in SICAP Baobab to ACI (Africa Consultants International) where we have language and cultural training. I breathe shallowly, my eyes focused on the ground in front of me, keen on avoiding eye contact with those I pass. Oddly enough I didn’t even realize that...

Read More

From Development to Culture Shock to Avatar: a Typical Day at Fall Training

August 23, 2011

Up to this point fall training has equipped the Global Citizen Year Fellows with broad skills required to be successful in our Global Citizen Year, such as mindfulness, self-awareness, and engaged leadership. However, on Saturday we departed from this theme and delved into international development specifically. The day began with a conference call with David...

Read More

A Tale of Two Paths

July 5, 2011

The beaten path.  We can all envision it.  We have all encountered it.  It is a physical dirt track in a forest, worn bare by hiking boots. But it is also invisible — a societal phenomenon.  At my age, the next step on the beaten path is college.  However, I have already stepped off the...

Read More