During our last week in The Gambia we had a free week to explore and say goodbyes to our new friends. A few of us went to Senegal to visit the Fathala wildlife reserve to hang out with some lions, they were huge and so curious! Three other classmates and I rented a compound for the last couple of days and cooled off in its pool. “Jama rek” is a phrase in Wolof that means peace only. It’s how you respond to “how are you” or expressing thanks. The Gambia has definitely taught me the Jama rek attitude and I believe this program has changed me as a person for the better. I have many different outlooks on life and how we live and especially to be so grateful. This goodbye or see you later was not a sad one for me, as I know I will return. The Gambia has a piece of my heart and taught me things I didn’t know I needed to learn. The Gambia is so unique to other places I’ve traveled, and it holds so much pride and culture that everyone embraces. I will dearly cherish all the memories and people I have developed relationships with.
I am back in the U.S. safe and sound! I had long layovers which I spent in Brussels and Dublin. I also had a brief stop at Sal Island airport which is a part of the Cape Verde islands. I had no idea this existed and it’s beautiful; I would love to visit there! Dublin and Brussels had Washington weather, so I was freezing as I have been used to 90 degree days. Being back home feels funny! Definitely experiencing reverse culture shock, but I am so happy to be home to my mom, sister, and cats! Doing lots of reflecting and recalling so many amazing memories. It didn’t occur to me til I got home in the span of the last 2.5 months I have visited six countries. Morocco, Gambia, Senegal, Cape Verde, Belgium, and Ireland. What 20 year olds can say they’ve been to more than six countries (I’ve been to others aside from this trip)? Not many! I am so thankful for these opportunities and the family and friends that always support my adventures.
I love to learn about new cultures and directly experience them. For those who haven’t traveled, who want to, are nervous to, or don’t feel that can actually afford it…. you can and I ENCOURAGE all of you to do so. There is something so special about having the courage to get out of your bubble and learn how others live in another country, rather than reading it out of a book or seeing what the media portrays that place to be. In short, my advice is to just do it. It will push you out of your comfort zone and make you grow as a person.