YES Program

My friend Matilda from SAS met this woman – Nicole - on the train in Morocco who worked for a school in Dakar, Senegal. She was apart of running a program called Yes. Nicole invited Matilda and any friends to come and see her school and possibly meet students. This was the first I personally did in Senegal.

On the second day we were in Dakar, Senegal Matilda and I got off the ship and took a taxi to the school in Dakar that worked with a program called YES. YES stands for, Youth Exchange and Study Programs.  I found a great description of the YES programs on wikipedia so I'll share that with y'all so you have a better understanding of what it is!

"Youth Exchange and Study Programs or YES Programs are full scholarship student exchange programs administered by theU.S. Department of State. YES includes the "inbound" program for students from close to 40 Muslim dominant countries to study and live in the U.S., and the "outbound" program, called YES Abroad, for students from the U.S. to study in selected YES countries.

The Kennedy-Lugar YES Program evolved out of a generalized recognition that public diplomacy efforts had been neglected in many countries around the world for many years and that the effects of this came into stark focus in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, along with the U.S. exchange community, recognized the importance of youth exchange as a key component of renewed commitment to building bridges between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations."

It was an amazing experience. We were able to meet with 7 students, 5 of which had studied in the U.S. and 2 of which were from the U.S. studying in Dakar through the program. After we shared what our program was all about and they shared what their program was all about we sat around and talked about random things such as where should we go in Dakar? What are the do’s and don’ts as an outsider coming into Senegalese culture? My biggest question was, is it ok to photograph people? I was told yes just make sure I ask the people I’m photographing! They asked us about our experience so far in Africa and we talked a lot about why it is important to travel and see the world. The biggest answer to this was to educate us on different cultures in order to understand each other as people from different parts of the world, but the same world nonetheless. It was a Saturday when we met with them and they were all together because they were having a meeting! So lucky they were meeting because we didn't realize we would be visiting on a Saturday when no one had school! 

After meeting with the students Nicole took us to the most western point of Senegal. We walked out onto the rocky strip and felt as though we were walking on water. The sun was setting so the water was sparkling from the yellowness of the sun drifting into it. It smelled of fish. Not just because we were in the ocean but also because the Senegalese woman at the restaurant on the water were cooking fish on open grill pits. The pits were eye level to me so as we walked back to the car I came face to face with many fish that were about to be cooked. When I say face to face that’s exactly what I mean, eyes and everything were starring at me as I walked by. After that we went to the lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse was really cool because you could see all of Dakar. After saying goodbye we went back to the ship to have dinner. While eating dinner I realized how that experience was exactly what I wanted to have. I got the most out of it because I had no expectations, I went in with an open mind and ready to learn about whatever it was we were doing. I didn’t question Matilda, I didn’t question Nicole I just went along not knowing what we were doing at all. I’m getting so much better at just taking what comes and making the best of it. I think that’s one of the things I am learning to do most on this voyage! 

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