By Cadet Kelsey Rosebeary, University of Maine
Stepping outside of our established normal routine of teaching English to Senegalese military members in Dakar, Cadets and cadre traveled to Mbao, Senegal to work with a group of young teenagers. These teens were in their first year of learning English and appeared apprehensive, timid, and nervous. We on the other hand were an excited group of American military members dressed in civilian attire.
We were in Senegal as part of the U.S Army Cadet Commands Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program. As a Cadet with the ROTC program, this was a once in a life time opportunity.
The group of students was broken into seven groups of four to six students per Cadet. Looking at our new students, we tried to break the ice by introducing who we were and where we were from. The students did likewise, but with quiet voices and downturned eyes.
The gears in our heads were turning, trying to figure out a way to break through this cultural barrier we preceived as timidity. That is when games came into the picture. All children, no matter where they are from, enjoy playing games and competing. We began to introduce games such as “The Alphabet Game” and “Hangman” to our students.
It was then that students started speaking, and eye contact was being held. Such little victories became grand rewards that we greatly appreciated. We realized that in a conservative culture such as that of Senegal, making friends with and being able to teach these teenagers was an accomplishment – one of which to be proud.