Written by SIT Study Abroad Senegal alum Clint Smith
I studied abroad with the SIT Study Abroad Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program during the spring of 2009. My time in the small West African country profoundly impacted my life and gave me a different perspective on how I see both myself, and the world around me. The people I met, places I saw, and experiences I had will be with me forever.
After being inspired by the many artisans, painters, novelists, and poets we met over the course of the semester, I chose to take on the ‘creative’ option for my independent study project. My goal was to articulate my experience in Senegal through a series of spoken word poetry pieces. One of the pieces I wrote, titled “Winds of Change,” expressed the sense of helplessness and internal conflict that I experienced during our interactions with the child beggars who frequented Senegalese street corners.
As a result of my time in Senegal, I knew that I wanted to return to Africa after graduating from Davidson College. After graduation last spring I moved to South Africa, where I currently work for an NGO in the township of Soweto called Grassroot Soccer. We use soccer as a means to promote awareness and education about HIV/AIDS.
Here in South Africa, I have remained active in the spoken word poetry scene, and after performing the Winds of Change piece at a local poetry slam competition in Johannesburg, I was approached by the director of an organization called Mobilitate. He explained to me that they were trying to create a website that would increase social and civic engagement amongst South Africans, and that they wanted to use my poem as a means to spread the word.
A few weeks later, I got together with the ‘Mobilitate’ team for a weekend of collaboration, filming, and some really thought-provoking discussion. The final product is an awesome visual supplement to the poem I wrote in Senegal.
Having been part of SIT, a program that places students in developing countries throughout the world, my poem attempts to speak to one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of our abroad experience. I hope that other SIT students, many of whom have had similar experiences, will be able to resonate with its message.