What am I doing in Senegal? – Part 1

I am on a cultural exchange program which is called Global Citizen Year
(GCY), but to be blunt, I am taking a gap year here in Senegal. There are
two parts to this question that deserves two separate posts. The first post
is about the program agenda which perhaps will resolve your curiosity
regarding the logistics and the second will be about my personal agenda
that would explain my personal goal of this program.

Below is an overview of the program from the official handbook.

LAUNCH (Phase 1)

Pre-Departure Campaign (US)

• Onboarding, Fellow Fundraising, Language Learning, Country Preparedness

Global Launch (US)

• Pre departure training at Stanford University

Country Launch (In-Country)

• Catch and release immersion and language training


Training Block 1 (In-Country)

• Ends with Training Seminar 1

Training Block 2 (In-Country)

• Ends with Training Seminar 2

Training Block 3 (In-Country)

• Ends with Training Seminar 3


Re-Entry Training (US)

• Global training in the California Redwoods

• Capstone (US)

• Storytelling to your supporters; completion marks program end

Here is my version of the program:

Homestay 7 months (September-April)

Apprenticeship 7 months (September-April)

The concept of immersion is crucial to understanding GCY. The organization
believes that taking youth out of their comfortable space to a stretch zone
which is a safe learning environment, will challenge them mentally,
physically and mentally. As a result, they will learn deeper about
themselves when facing something that is totally unfamiliar at all.
Moreover, between high school and the university is perhaps the best time
for them to do so. This concept personally is not really new to me. I would
say it has happened five years ago when I had to move from the exotic land
of Cambodia to the highest metropolitan city of Singapore. I was crushed
and moulded and as a consequence, I have been shaped into the person I am

I am staying with a Senegalese family which goes by the last name of Sarr.
I am treated with foods, accommodation and most important is being
assimilated into the family. I would eventually have some duties and
responsibilities as a son and a brother of the family. I am challenged by
the languages which are French and Wolof and I am also challenged with the
Senegalese culture, my family Sereer ethnic custom and country’s major
religious practice Islam. The culture is quite different from my home
country and the popular culture, the ones where I am familiar with. Wolof
opens up my mind to a strange understanding of language where verbs aren’t
conjugate but subjects are.

The apprenticeship will commence next week and I am authorized to be an
assistant teacher at the local high school and at the same time as a
volunteer in a care centre for the handicapped children. They are at most
within a 30 min walk distance. I am not allowed to have my own motorbike or
vehicle like I was in Cambodia, so I am looking forward to walking under
the scorching heat to the subtropical climate of Senegal. At the moment I
am very ill-informed about my apprenticeship, I should only be thinking
about settling with my family because I am going to spend most of my days
with them here.

Post Script:

I am a believer in criticism. If you are really interested in hearing about
my stories in Senegal, you can feedback on my post regarding writing style,
cultural appropriation, etc… by making your comment below or send directly
to my email vanvong9@gmail.com.

Donate to my fundraising campaign to fulfil a high school student’s wish
with a dream like me to take a gap year by immersing themselves completely
in a completely different culture.

If there is anything specific that you would like me to write about, please
input your wish below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.