Examine competing narratives of the causes of global insecurity and how Senegal’s fascinating mix of religions forges peaceful coexistence and inclusive politics.
Explore how Senegalese society has cultivated peaceful coexistence in religiously plural settings.
In a time when terrorism is often defined by religious extremism and a “clash of civilizations,” Senegal provides a model of religious coexistence in which radicalization is unusual and Sufi Islam has an unusually close relationship to the government.
Learn how urban issues in Dakar intersect with religious identity, gender, and youth cultures.
You’ll critically examine the practices that promote social cohesion in rural and urban Senegal and explore how Senegalese youth perceive questions of security, politics and peace.
Visit important sites in Senegal.
Travel to Joal-Fadiouth Island, where animists, Catholics, and Muslims live in harmony. Visit mosques, including the Grand Mosque of Dakar, the Mosque of the Divinity near Ouakam, and the Layenne Shrine in Yoff (Layenniyya), and have conversations with religious leaders in Tivaouane (the Tijaniyya) and Touba (the Muridiyya) to examine Senegalese Islamic practice in the context of Senegal’s traditional secular republicanism.
Explore international and regional security institutions.
Examine how international and regional bodies are working to promote stability and peace in the wider West Africa region and become well versed in the dynamics that shape security and peace in West Africa.
Explore religion and politics in Morocco’s unique urban cultures.
During upon a comparative excursion to Morocco, you will examine the religious and political relations between Morocco’s and Senegal’s Sufi orders, and how their histories shaped the relations between religion and politics.
Develop new skills in French or Wolof.
Increase your conversational ability and cultural understanding through language immersion in Senegalese society. Courses are conducted partly in French, giving you extra practice in the language.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Indigenous religion as a foundation of philosophy
- Religious tolerance in Senegal
- The relationship between religion and state
- Local movements of resistance and empowerment
- Regional security policies, programs, and projects
- International and regional institutions for peace
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Monika Brodnicka, PhD, Academic Director
Monika comes to SIT with experience teaching in large research universities and small liberal arts colleges in the US, mainly The Ohio State University and Regis University. She received her PhD in philosophy, interpretation, and culture from SUNY Binghamton, with a specialization in African studies and a DEA (postmaster’s degree) in African philosophy and Islam from Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal. She is a founding member of The Dakar Institute of African Studies. She was awarded two Fulbright scholarships to study African spirituality in Serer, Bamana, Fulani, and Dagara traditions and continues to pursue research in those areas. Her monograph on the metaphysical dimension of West African traditional religions entitled, “Living Tradition: Mystical Perception of Identity, Community, and Environment in West African Religions,” addresses the fundamental aspects of this research. Monika has also published articles, encyclopedia entries, and reviews in journals such as Journal of Religion in Africa, West Africa Review, Journal on African Philosophy, The Encyclopedia of Empire, and Contemporary French Civilization. Her most recent publications address mystical dimensions in African religions in countries such as Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
Cheikh Thiam, PhD, Academic Coordinator
Cheikh has a BA from Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and an MA and PhD in comparative literature from Binghamton University. He comes to SIT with a strong background in US higher education. He is a founding member of The Dakar Institute of African Studies and an associate editor of Research in African Literatures, the premiere journal in African literature. Cheikh has also served as an associate professor of African American studies, African studies, and French at The Ohio State University and directed study abroad programs in Senegal over the last ten years. A leading voice in negritude studies, Cheikh is the author of Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude (Ohio State University Press, 2014), the first book focusing on the philosophical work of Leopold Sedar Senghor. He was also the editor of Negritude Reloaded, a special issue of Journal on African Philosophy. He has recently completed a second manuscript, Negritude Beyond Negritude: Glissant, Gilroy, Mabanckou and Senghor’s Africentered Philosophy and is currently writing a mytho-biography of Leopold Sedar Senghor from the perspective of the elders of Joal and Djiloor. His articles have appeared in literature and philosophy journals such as Ethiopiques, West Africa Review, La Revue Africaine, La Revue du Graat, French Review, Research in African Literature, Dalhousie French Review, and Journal on African Philosophy.
Benedict “Papis” Bassene, MA, Office Manager
Papis is originally from the region of Kédougou, in the southeast of Senegal, though he grew up mostly in Kaolack and Dakar. He received a master’s degree in applied linguistics in the English Department of the University of Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis. He joined SIT in 2002. Before that, he volunteered as an interpreter and project planner at the Spanish Humanist Movement, a nongovernmental organization that supports local grassroots community-building projects. It was here that Papis began developing an interest in intercultural experiences. As office manager with the SIT Senegal program, Papis helps create an inclusive and fulfilling place to work, do research, and support students. In addition to his work with SIT, he teaches English at professional schools in Dakar.
Khadidiatou “Khadija” Diedhiou, Homestay Coordinator and Program Assistant
Khadija received her Master 1 degree from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar in 2017 and is currently working on her Master 2 thesis. She is an alumna of the YES (Youth Exchange and Study) Program, which provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to study in the United States. The program promotes mutual understanding and permits participants to acquire leadership skills and provides opportunities for cross-cultural engagement. Khadija previously served as the office manager and program assistant at The Dakar Institute’s summer study abroad program. She also worked with several institutes and NGOs such as UNHCR, GEN Africa (Global Eco-Village Network), and REDES (Network for Eco-village Emergence and Development in the Sahel).
Lamine Niang, PhD Candidate, Student Affairs Coordinator
Lamine holds an MA in African and postcolonial studies from Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) and is currently working on his PhD in the Education Department, with a focus on decoloniality, critical race theory, and gender studies. He works with the African and Postcolonial Lab at UCAD and is a freelance language specialist who translates and teaches Wolof. He has taught English at the International Language Academy and in several high schools and served as program assistant for several study abroad programs in Dakar.
Sidy Gueye, Wolof Instructor
Sidy has been teaching Wolof to American students for over twenty years. He received training from the Peace Corps on competency-based and community-based teaching and was an assistant coordinator for many years, training teachers to teach Wolof. He also worked for USAID, the Embassy of United Arab Emirates, Amnesty International, and many other NGOs as a Wolof instructor. He has the well-earned reputation of being one of the best Wolof teachers in town.
Ousman A. Pame, PhD, French Instructor
Ousmane earned his PhD in 2002 at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar where he has been teaching literature and translation. In addition to teaching courses at UCAD and teaching French for SIT, he has initiated important community development programs in and around Senegal, particularly related to sustainable development and building eco-communities. His teaching has been hailed by students as hands on and engaging.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
Senegal: Colonialism, the State and Society – syllabus
(AFRS3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This seminar introduces students to Senegalese society and critically examines the forces that are shaping its evolution through two broad questions: What are the historical foundations of contemporary Senegalese society and state? How has Senegal’s encounter with the world affected the socio-political particularities of its contemporary cultures? Students first trace the historical evolution of the Senegalese state from the so called “medieval empires” to the present with a strong focus on its political, social, and economic realities. Students subsequently explore the major shifts in Senegalese identities via changing meanings of class and socio-political roles. They then draw upon their engagement with Senegalese life to explore emerging cultural forms in Senegalese people’s understandings of their presents and their futures. The seminar is taught largely as a field-based course. Site visits, field trips, and excursions to various urban and rural locations provide the empirical data and insights with which students engage and analyze key research questions. Readings and videos are deliberately assigned to provoke discussion and critical reflection.
Re-thinking Global Security: Politics and Religious Pluralism in Senegal – syllabus
(INTS3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
The discussion on global security, alongside the discussion on development, has been traditionally dominated by Western hegemonic discourse aimed at the Global South, particularly through the discipline of international relations influenced by policies of international governmental bodies as well as NGOs. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, this discourse has refocused on the role of interreligious conflict, religious extremism, and terrorism in places such as the Middle East and Africa. This seminar intends to challenge the very basis of such discourse, particularly in Africa, that leads to what Mudimbe calls the invention of Africa. This invention involves universalizing, Western-centric interpretations of regional situations, which are much more complex and local. The readings, lectures, discussions, and site activities for this course not only challenge the interpretative status quo of international relations but also offer new, decolonial interpretations of religious beliefs and practices, a more vigorous understanding of religious pluralism, and a localized debate on the center/periphery from the perspective of the Global South.
Students examine the role of religion in Africa, focusing on the three major belief systems that sustain the diverse religious practices in Senegal — indigenous religion/s, Islam, and Christianity — from the perspective of local beliefs, practices, and knowledge. Students examine adaptations of religions within their regional context, their ecumenical potential, and their pursuit of a higher, spiritual knowledge. How does a more comprehensive and interrelated understanding of religious institutions in Senegal — including their beliefs, practices, and knowledge — challenge the Western-centric notions of global security in the discipline of international relations? How does a more localized knowledge of Islam change the discourse on religious extremism and terrorism? How does a deeper engagement with notions of the center and the periphery inform the concept of development from the perspective of the Global South?
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Drawing upon myriad in-country experiences, cultural encounters, conversations in homestays, and community observations, the Research Methods and Ethics course is primarily designed as a field-based course, complemented by classroom lectures, assigned readings, and discussions facilitated by the academic director. The course relies on SIT’s in-country professional network and academic and socio-cultural resources to structure assignments and field activities through which students practice and hone their skills in gathering, managing, and analyzing primary data.
A series of structured field activities and assignments provide the material for class discussion, complemented by scheduled lectures and assigned readings. Students learn qualitative approaches of gathering, managing, and analyzing data from primary sources. The course puts particular emphasis upon culturally appropriate ways of building rapport, initiating purposeful dialogue, forming constructive relationships with organizations and individuals, recording and analyzing primary data, and writing a scholarly academic report, in ways that students should find beneficial to successful completion of independent study or internship projects. The course also pays particular attention to US higher education ethical considerations that guide primary data collection and how these could be translated within the local cultural context of Senegal. A core focus for this course is the development of a feasible research or internship proposal, including the ethical considerations necessary in the research process, topic development, selection and execution of methodologies, final write-up, and reciprocity or civic engagement issues, while sensitizing students to power asymmetries and the politics of subjectivity in field research.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
Intensive French Language Study – syllabus
(FREN1003-3503 / 3 credits / 60 hours)
The course enhances students’ French oral and writing proficiency, and introduces them to the variety of Senegal’s rural and urban linguistic cultures. The course takes advantage of students’ immersion in Senegalese society. Students spend 30 hours on formal classroom instruction and another 30 hours on field activities supporting language acquisition such as sports, song and dance, shopping, cooking and treasure hunts. Proficiency assessment includes oral and written tests and students’ use of French during the program. Class level assignment is assessed via an oral proficiency test. A midterm assessment reviews progress in order to reassign class level. An end-of-semester assessment determines students’ final proficiency level.
Intensive Wolof Language Study – syllabus
(WOLO1003-3503 / 3 credits / 60 hours)
The intensive Wolof language course is primarily intended to enhance students’ Wolof oral and writing proficiency and to introduce students to the variety of Senegal’s rural and urban cultures. The course is deliberately designed to take full advantage of students’ immersion in Senegalese society. Students spend 24 hours on formal classroom instruction and another 30 hours on field activities that are intended to support language acquisition. Field assignments in recreational activities such as sports, song and dance, shopping, cooking, and treasure hunts enhance students’ language acquisition in interesting and engaging ways, build new vocabulary, and develop intercultural competence. Students practice learned vocabulary and fluency using simple texts, moving to more complex texts as they gradually develop their language abilities. Language proficiency assessment will include in-class oral and written tests and student’s use of Wolof throughout the course of the program, in everyday life and field assignments. Student’s language abilities are assessed through an oral proficiency test at the beginning of the semester to determine language class level assignment. A second midterm assessment reviews progress in order to reassign class level. A third assessment at the end of the semester determines students’ final language proficiency level.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
The four-week Independent Study Project (ISP), scheduled in the final portion of the program, provides students with a unique opportunity to study in-depth a key aspect of global security or religious pluralism in Senegal. The ISP draws upon knowledge and skills gained from the thematic, language, and Research Methods and Ethics seminars. At this point, students will have worked with the academic director and various other in-country experts to develop their ISP proposals and to schedule interviews and arrange translators (if required) and other logistics essential to completing the ISP. They will also have developed the competence to act in culturally appropriate ways and find resources in Senegal needed for ISP completion. The ISP allows students to practice and hone their primary data gathering skills and various other skills learned in the Research Methods and Ethics seminar, such as navigating unfamiliar cultural norms, building rapport, and navigating local bureaucracies. Further, students practice and hone their skills in gathering and analyzing data from primary sources, managing this data, and making a coherent argument in a scholarly manner.
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
Several regional and multilateral bodies based in Senegal engage with issues of global security and religion and provide opportunities to understand the country from a decolonial perspective. This makes Senegal an excellent setting in which to explore security, peace, and decoloniality and their support mechanisms, from an African perspective. SIT uses its extensive network to place students in national and international organizations working in the broad areas of governance, election monitoring and peace in Dakar, education, health, development, and beyond. In addition, students may petition SIT for approval of internship placements that they find on their own initiative. In either case, SIT’s academic director must approve of the student’s internship duties, location, and placement. Ultimately, each student takes responsibility for making optimal use of resources available at the organization and is expected to be proactive in engaging with local experts to achieve internship objectives. Weekly two-hour reflection and assessment meetings are held with the academic director or internship coordinator to review the progress of the internship and associated learning. Students also complete and submit a paper that describes, assesses, and analyzes their learning in regard to the theoretical underpinnings, complexity, challenges, and benefits to the community of the work of their internship organization. The internship paper also outlines the tasks that the students completed at the international development internship, reporting relationships, and challenges encountered and how the student overcame them.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The program includes extended field visits to Saint-Louis, southeastern Senegal, and the Petite Côte as well as visits to Gorée Island, the Grand Mosque of Touba, Keur Moussa Benedictine Monastery, Bandia Game Park, and Joal-Fadiouth Island.
You’ll learn about Morocco’s Sufi orders and compare how they have shaped relations between religion and politics in Morocco with the way Senegal’s Sufi orders have shaped religious and political relations in Senegal. You’ll also be able to experience Moroccan cultures, cuisine, achitecture, and landscapes.
Gorée Island and the Slave House
Gorée Island was a busy slave-trading center during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here, you will visit a slave house and meet with a conservator on the slave trade period. Prior to the visit, you will attend a lecture on development and poverty at the Gorée Institute, followed by a visit to a local women’s organization. You can visit the Historical Museum, the Museum of the Woman, and the community of artists who live and work on Gorée Island.
Joal-Fadiouth Island offers a study in religious coexistence. There, animists, Catholics, and Muslims practice their traditions in harmony and live side by side. The island, off the Petite Côte, is also known for its streets paved with seashells.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will experience three homestays: one in Dakar and two short homestays in rural areas. During the homestays, students are typically placed in clusters—for instance, two or three students in the same neighborhood or in the same village hamlet.
The homestays are an essential part of the program. In living with a host family, you will experience the realities of Senegalese daily life and learn about family dynamics, including family structure, gender roles, eating habits, household chores, notions of space and concepts of belonging, education of children, and celebrations and other rituals. The homestays also provide an excellent opportunity for you to immerse yourself in French and Wolof, the primary languages of Senegal.
The program is based in Senegal’s capital and largest city, Dakar. Located on the Atlantic Coast, Dakar abounds with lively cultural activities and is home to well-known Senegalese musicians including Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal, Ismaël Lô, Coumba Gawlo, Daara J, Cheikh Lô, and Thione Seck. The program center is located in the neighborhood of Point E. The center is walking distance from Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) and a hub of NGOs working on development issues ranging from refugees, to education, to HIV/AIDS. The center is also close to major research centers such as the West African Research Center and CODESRIA. You can easily access restaurants, shops, schools, and other businesses from the program center.
Here, you will live with a Senegalese family in Dakar for six weeks. The homestay will allow you to experience Senegalese daily life and special cultural events while living in Dakar. You will share numerous activities with your host families, such as going to the local market, tailor, neighborhood boutiques, or beach. You may also attend sporting events (soccer or wrestling matches) or concerts with your host parents or siblings. You may also be invited to naming ceremonies, marriages, and Muslim holiday celebrations such as Tabaski and Korité. You may attend religious seminars/gatherings with members of your host family.
Most host families are considered middle-class by Senegalese standards and represent different professions, including nurses, merchants / business owners, retired army officers, teachers, and tailors. Some host family homes may be within walking distance of the SIT program center while others may be 20–30 minutes away by bus. Most host families have children. If there are no children in the host family, there are usually children in neighboring families. Students often visit each other’s host families.
You will participate in one week-long rural stay, which alternates each year between different villages, such as Popenguine, Bambey Sereer, and Ndem, within a few hours’ drive of Dakar. Depending on the location, you will be hosted with local families or hostels and will engage with different facets of the program theme. In the past, students have created documentary films on religious pluralism in Popenguine with the guidance of the famed Senegalese director, Moussa Sene Absa, and participated in breaking ground on an eco-village project led by the community of Bambey Sereer.
Other accommodations during the program may include guest houses, educational institutions, or small hotels.
Students on this program represent many different colleges, universities, and majors. Many have gone on to do work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Recording engineer at Black Viking Studios, New York, NY
- Marketing and events manager at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL
- Agriculture and land program officer at Millennium Challenge Corporation, Washington, DC
- Curriculum and training manager for Partners in Health, Boston, MA
- Social studies teacher at Guangzhou Foreign Language School, Guangzhou, China
SIT internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper processing your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with, and/or you will design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.
Regional and multilateral bodies are based in Senegal to provide and support security in the region. SIT’s extensive network helps students find placements in organizations working in environmental security, health, governance, social justice, development, and peace in Dakar and beyond. In addition, students may petition SIT for approval of internship placements that they find on their own initiative. Your internship is dependent on an organization’s ability to accommodate your level of French.
- Volunteering in an orphanage
- Assisting in a bilingual high school
- Working on issues of social justice in local NGOs
- Supporting women’s rights through local and international organizations
- Working on health reform projects in a local hospital
- Developing strategies for food security in an eco-village network
- Advocating for children’s rights
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You will spend four weeks near the end of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of interest. The ISP is conducted in Dakar or in another approved location appropriate to the project.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- How the Sufi branch of Islam relates to the Senegalese government
- Religious co-existence in neighborhoods
- Museums as de/colonial spaces in Senegal
- Empowerment through women’s giving circles
- How outward appearance represents religious practice
- Senegal’s successful approach to radicalization among youth
- Muslim women’s engagement with feminism
- Fluidity of ethnic identities in Senegal
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
This program is eligible for a New Horizons Grant, a scholarship for our new programs. Award amounts are $2,500 for semester and $1,500 for summer programs. Students demonstrating need through their submitted scholarship application will be eligible.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Rethinking Global Security: Politics and Religious Pluralism in Senegal seminar
- Senegal: Colonialism, the State and Society seminar
- Research Methods and Ethics course on field study methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in French
- Intensive language instruction in Wolof
- All educational excursions to locations such as Morocco, Gorée Island, Saint-Louis, and Joal-Fadiouth Island
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,800
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Dakar), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Airfare to Program Site
Airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.