Washington, D.C., native Tykaria Watts knew she was ready to travel. As an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE) scholar, she needed to decide where her travel would take her. After discussions with Deepa Peppin ’02, Director of International Studies, Watts chose Senegal, a country that would provide knowledge of emerging economies and governments in Africa today, as well as a glimpse into her family history.
Watts was one of several students traveling with a summer program organized by Boston University, all of whom spent six weeks in Dakar and surrounding areas. It was a totally new experience for Watts, who had not previously traveled outside the U.S. She lived with a host family and, being new to the native language of Wolof, quickly learned to mime in order to make herself understood. The Senegalese culture is one of great hospitality and welcome. Watts enjoyed meals that were served communally in bowls, and learned that lunch was most important, not only for nutrition but also as a meeting time for the family. While living in Dakar, Watts adopted the local custom of covering the head when outdoors, and learned that the Senegalese speak to every person they meet, extending kersa, the word for respect or politeness.
In addition to an English literature class, she studied the native Wolof language as well as music and drumming. In her interactions with the local people, Watts noted a great deal of ambition, and curiosity about the United States and the symbol of opportunity that it represents for so many around the world. “During my six weeks in Senegal, there were many unexpected obstacles I had to overcome, including the language barrier, culture and value clashes, money differences and gender roles. I learned to accept fear of the unfamiliar. Through my travels I have come to realize that fear can keep me from doing things, but overcoming fear opens doors to possibilities that I didn’t realize were within me. These obstacles and fun times helped me to appreciate and realize what I have at home…. Sometimes a little cultural adjustment is all we need to appreciate our lives and where we come from.”
~ Judy Tart ’78