International relations major Djeneba Ballo ’20 is studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal and chronicling her experiences on her blog “Impact Up Close.”
As an American with West African heritage, Ballo highlights her perspective of living in the country’s capital which is home to one of the largest seaports on the West African coast. She reflects on how her origins in the Côte d’Ivoire have shaped her identity, as well as how these qualities impact her study abroad experience.
“Growing up in an Ivorian household, it may be easy to say that ‘I will adjust easily,’” Ballo writes on the tension between cultural differences and her West African heritage. “Which is somewhat true, but there are some American habits that I have that would not be accepted in the Senegalese culture. I hope that I am aware of those habits and am willing to change them once I notice them.”
Ballo is also dedicated to combating the stereotypes of Africa that many see in the media. “For so long people have been accustomed to Africa’s narrative as being dangerous, under developed, full of diseases and famine,” Ballo says. “I am here to show you all that Africa, and particularly Senegal, has to offer.” Through her photography, Ballo highlights the country’s beauty through shots of landmarks and nature, local food and Senegalese people.
Through the Center for Global Education’s top ranked study abroad program, HWS students in Dakar live with a host family. On her blog’s first entry, Ballo talks about her host family, who have eagerly welcomed her into their home. In addition to gaining two little brothers, she has been welcomed by many community members of Dakar, as well as the other students on her trip.
In affiliation with the Council on International Educational Exchange and based at L’Insitut Superieur de Droit de Dakar, the Senegal program offers classes in French and Wolof, the main languages spoken in Senegal. Ballo is studying in both languages, as well as taking cultural studies and environmental classes.
After graduation, Ballo intends to return to West Africa in pursuit of a career in the international health care industry. “My courses in Senegal are providing me with a critical foundation and understanding of culture, tradition and religion, as well as precolonial law and it’s affect.” While abroad, she is also volunteering at an orphanage, where she cares for children five months to three years old.
On campus, Ballo is a member of the Herons squash team.