Boston University will add to its already-strong African studies program by introducing two new six-week study abroad programs in Africa for summer 2013, officials said.
One of the programs will be hosted in Zanzibar, Tanzania from May 27 to July 5 and will explore religion, politics and other issues of the area. The other is set to run from May 19 to June 30 partly in Dakar, Senegal and partly in Paris, and will explore issues of youth and migration, according to a Thursday College of Arts and Sciences press release.
“We really have a rich ability to prepare students for going abroad, and also to provide them with opportunities to study further when they come back,” said Timothy Longman, director of the center for African studies and head of the Zanzibar program.
Longman said the Zanzibar program offers a unique setting for students to learn about African culture.
“It’s a part of Africa that has a mix of Arab, Indian, Persian or Arabian and African cultures, as well as some Portuguese and British influence,” he said. “It’s fascinating to see how all those different societies come together in one place.”
Students in the Zanzibar program will enroll in two four-credit courses: A Swahili course and a course titled “Religion, Politics and Identity in East Africa,” according to the release.
“Frankly, it’s going to be a fairly small program, so there will be lots of ways that we can adapt to students’ interests,” Longman said.
Longman said if the program is successful, CAS officials might expand it for future summers or design a program to run during the academic year.
Odile Cazenave, head of the Dakar and Paris program and a professor in the Department of Romance Studies, said the program allows students to learn about two distinct cultures.
“The first two weeks will be spent in Dakar in Senegal, and the four remaining weeks in Paris,” she said. “The idea is that both Dakar and Paris are unique sides to understand the complexity and context about the evolution of issues around youth and migration.”
Cazenave said the program gives students an opportunity to examine film and literature of the area and understand what migrants from Senegal might experience during a transition from Africa to Europe.
“You have many programs going to Senegal, but usually it’s just an introduction to the culture,” she said. “… This program is more focused on the key issues both of youth and migration, which is one of the key issues in the global economy.”
Students in the Dakar and Paris program will enroll in two four-credit courses titled “Youth and Migration in Literature and Film” and “Historical and Social Dynamics of Migration,” according to the release.
Students will also learn basic conversational Wolof, a language used by many Senegalese, Cazenave said.
Local host families will house students in both programs, she said.
Several students said they perceive unique benefits to the new study abroad programs in Africa.
Paula Sokolska, a College of Communication sophomore, said the culture shock a student might face in an African study abroad program would be much greater than that of a student enrolled in a European program.
“Somewhere like London or Madrid, it’s still a city, so there are still a lot of familiarities from home,” she said. “… But if you go to a place in Africa, depending on where you go, that’s not something that you would necessarily have been exposed to.”
Rachel Franklin, a CAS junior, said she studied abroad in Grenoble, France, and would have gone to Africa, had there been an appropriate opportunity.
“I would have gone somewhere like that if there was a program offering science courses in those places, but there wasn’t at the time,” she said.
Alexa Aldrich, a School of Management senior who studied abroad in London as a junior, said she would consider studying abroad in Africa if she had more time at BU, citing the great cultural differences as being of particular intrigue.
“Cultures that are so drastically different from ours are just so fascinating and interesting,” she said. “… It could actually change your life a lot.”