Meet Jenny Parker: A Professional French Masters Program Student’s Year in Senegal

Jenny Parker with Sengalese children.
Jenny Parker with Senegalese children.

Jenny Parker is a student in the Professional French Masters Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As part of the program she is required to do an internship in a francophone country. Because she already spent five years in France, Parker decided to do her internship in Senegal this year. In the following Q&A she tells us about her experiences there so far …

What are you doing there (studying, internship etc.)?

I am doing an administrative internship in what is called the rectorat, or the office of the chancellor at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis.  I am also fortunate enough to be teaching English at the university. It’s fun and a nice challenge!

And when you aren’t studying or working, what do you do in your free time?

If I can, I love to go dancing!  Senegalese people love to dance and it is so fun to learn their dance style, mbalax (even if it is quite hard to look good doing it!).  Otherwise, I am often invited to my co-worker’s house to yeendu, which means literally “spend the day at someone’s house.” You arrive for lunch then you just hang out, watch TV, or take a nap, yes, I said take a nap!  Any good Senegalese host will offer you a bed to rest on after eating!  Then you have attaaya, the Senegalese specialty tea.  You are served three glasses: the first is slightly bitter and then the two other are a lighter version with mint.  It is delicious!  Before you leave the house you are offered fruit juice or actual fruit.  The yeendu does not usually end before 5 or 6 p.m.  Sometimes you even stay for dinner!  Otherwise, I like to go to Saint-Louis and shop at the tourist shops or even better, go to the market to find great Senegalese material!


What is the most invaluable experience that you have had so far?

I just recently got back from a stay with a friend at his house in Guediawaye (suburb of Dakar) where I really got to experience Senegalese culture. I got to see the day-to-day living of a family with eight kids. I also learned how to cook senegalese food.  Most importantly, I got to see over and over again teranga which is Senegalese hospitality.  It is amazing what they will do to make a guest comfortable.