An Unforgettable Exchange: Senegalese Students Visit Masters

A delegation of students and faculty from Cours Sainte Marie de Hann, Masters’ sister school in Dakar, Senegal, visited from Thursday, April 18, through Thursday, May 2.

For Masters students and faculty who had visited Senegal last summer, the visit was like a family reunion, and for many other students and teachers, it resulted in new friendships and educational opportunities.

While here, the visiting students participated in classes, co-curriculars, homestays, and dorm life, and also took time to visit New York City. The exchange had a wide-ranging impact on students’ learning. Ellen Cowhey’s World Religions class, for example, was studying the Abrahamic traditions and had the opportunity to integrate four visiting students into her class. Adding the viewpoints of students who live in a predominantly Muslim African nation changed the direction of the conversation, creating a deeper and more meaningful class for all involved.

Students also actively participated in Skeff Young’s economics class, which was studying developmental economics. Having studied economics at an advanced high school level in Senegal, the students from Cours Sainte Marie were able to share their perspective on how institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund affect their country. In art class, the Senegalese students collaborated with our students to create meaningful projects. Cheryl Hajjar, Chair of the Visual Arts Department said: “Coming into the Art Studio, the students from Senegal were open and excited about the project. They worked so well with our Masters students, looking to them for feedback and sharing their interests and personalities freely. This brought out a lot of hospitality and collegiality in our students. All students seemed to enjoy the work (illustrating a quote or poem) and art making, in general.” In dance class, the visiting students taught Masters students Senegalese dance steps; this shared experience of bonding through dance has led many of the participants to continue to remain in contact with their dance-mates in Dakar.  

The students also connected with each other through home stays. Jessica Thompson ’22, who hosted a number of the students at her house for Easter, has stayed in touch with her new friends from Senegal since they’ve left. Sophia Brousset ’19, who has hosted a number of students this year, said: “I had a really great experience as a host sister. It’s really cool that I now have a sister in Poland, a sister in Germany, a sister in Japan and two in Senegal! It was really interesting to learn about the cultural differences between us, and of course also really cool to see the many ways we were similar. I ended up getting really close to all of them not just because they were living in my house, but because of how many similarities I found with them.”  

A highlight of the exchange was a fashion show the Senegalese students put on at a farewell party as well as an on-campus dance sponsored by the Afro-Caribbean Culture Club. The show featured the many changing fashions of Dakar, from traditional to contemporary, challenging many of the tropes and stereotypes about fashion in Africa while entertaining students, faculty and parents.

The goal of the Masters School’s exchange programs is to expand create lasting bonds between our students and those from abroad as we deepen our Harkness discussions by including new participants from beyond the borders of The Masters School. Rob Fish, Director of Global and Civic Exchange, said: “We establish exchange programs to expand our Harkness table, transform our students understanding of different regions of the world, and to establish lifelong relationships between our students and students from abroad.”
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