on a summer in Senegal
b y K r i s t i n M u l l e r
part of a summer in Senegal, Africa, probably isn't what most people
would consider to be a typical Muhlenberg study abroad experience,
but then again, Andrew Halton '02, probably isn't the typical Muhlenberg
who graduated with a double major in biochemistry and French, had always
wanted to incorporate an overseas experience into his Muhlenberg education,
but a heavy academic course load prevented him from applying for the
more traditional semester abroad programs offered by the College.
So, when French professor Lisa Perfetti approached him with the opportunity
to complete a summer internship in Africa with the Rodale Institute,
he readily agreed.
Senegal sits at the western-most edge of the African continent. From
May to November, a monsoon wind blows from the south bringing hot, humid
weather. "Desertification" and soil erosion throughout the
north of the country are ever-increasing problems.
As a Rodale Institute intern, Halton spent about five and a half weeks
in Senegal during the summer of 2001, assisting the Rodale staff in
teaching rural communities about regenerative agriculture in order to
help them to maintain and revitalize the productivity of the region's
Perfetti's course, "Francophone Cultures of Africa and the Caribbean,"
was a prerequisite for going to Africa. Plus, Halton studied with Perfetti
in order to ready himself for the changes he would face upon arriving
in Senegal. And, this trip was not Halton's first time overseas - he
had been to France following his senior year in high school.
Yet, in spite of all of this preparation, Halton says assimilating into
life in Africa, which was
so different than the world he was used to, was difficult. "You
have to be prepared for what you're going to face when you arrive in
Africa," he says. "Every day I got up in Africa to 117 degree
weather and it was hard work."
Halton says the very first day of his African journey still stands out
in his mind, recalling the somber experience of visiting the capital
city of Dakar when he went to the island where slave ships would leave
for America. He also says that the landscape itself made an impact on
him. "There was not too much green, and the homes were straw huts
- put together out of anything the inhabitants could find," he
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