Chasing a soccer ball on the sandy ground, dancing to rhythmic music into the night and wrestling with my African brothers were part of my experience in Senegal, West Africa, where I worked with other Western students last summer to build a school in a village.
We went with buildOn, a nonprofit organization that helps Detroit teens do community service locally and in developing countries.
Getting ready to go to on trek sometimes seemed more challenging than the trek itself. We prepared extensively by learning about manners and respectful behavior and the culture of Senegal, including eating a Senegalese meal.
In our village of Deffame, I learned how to speak in the local languages of Serer and Wolof, as we built a school while living with our host families. We were all given Senegalese names. Mine was Babakai Fye.
A favorite activity was sharing in a chat circle, where our trek leaders taught us lessons on how to love yourself, the importance of friendship and mutual respect. We also learned what our strengths and weaknesses were. I believe that the chat circles brought my trek group closer.
Sometimes the days seemed so long it felt like I was there forever. One of my favorite memories was when my trek group stayed up late and wrestled the other kids in the village. There were a lot of ups and downs, but it was an amazing experience, which I am going to always remember.