By Aita Diakhate (YES 2010-2011, Senegal, hosted by AYUSA in Lowell, MA)
As the Alumni Coordinator for Senegal, I organized a re-entry seminar for 12 new alumni on August 3-4. With the help of Mamady Diaoune (YES 2014-2015, Senegal, hosted by American Councils PO in Murrysville, PA), Dame Ndieguene (YES 2014-2015, Senegal, hosted by AFS in Cleveland Heights, OH), and Marie Josephine Faye (YES 2016-2017, Senegal, hosted by ASSE International in Eugene, OR), I led sessions to welcome the alumni home, give them the opportunity to analyze their development during their year abroad, discuss problems they will face adjusting to life at home, and introduce them to the alumni community and the opportunities and resources it provides.
Alumni shared stories about their experience in America; discussed changes in themselves and their families and friends; and developed strategies for dealing with reverse culture shock. They were also introduced to the YES alumni community in Senegal with the help of senior alumni who shared precious advice on how the alumni community can be of help during the re-adjustment process. Alumni also had the chance to brainstorm about activities they would like to organize in their communities. On the second day of the seminar, 25 additional alumni of previous generations joined us for a community service activity. Together we cleaned the elementary school of Goree. We also painted the school’s facade as well as two classrooms. Alumni had gathered funds to purchase the paint and other supplies throughout the month of July.
All the new alumni agreed that the seminar was effective in helping them overcome re-entry problems they had or might have. When asked which sessions were most helpful to them, Kader Diop (YES 2017-2018, Senegal, hosted by ASSE International in Alpena, MI) named the session in which alumni reflected on how they had changed over the course of their exchange, “because it’s fun but also interesting to see some changes in [myself].” Mouhamed dit Elhadj Seck (YES 2017-2018, Senegal, hosted by AFS in College Park, MD) found the session on dealing with reverse culture shock to be the most helpful, “because it helps me see that I’m not alone going through that and [I] got lots of great advice.”
The re-entry seminar was also a great way for new alumni to get introduced to the YES alumni community in Senegal and experience their first community service activity together. The 12 new alumni went back home well prepared to face the challenges of reverse culture shock and ready to give back to their communities!