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Out of Africa
Reflections on a summer in Senegal
b y   K r i s t i n   M u l l e r   '02

Spending 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 student.

Andrew Halton, 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 fragile soil.
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 says.

Photo of people planting in Senegal.

(continued on page 21)

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