Harvard Summer Program in Dakar, Senegal

In light of the significant and prolonged uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard Summer School is suspending the operation of our 2021 summer study abroad programs. For further travel resources, please visit the Harvard Global Support Services website and Harvard’s coronavirus website which is frequently updated and contains the latest announcements, guidance and resources. Students interested in related coursework for summer 2021 are encouraged to consider enrolling in a course at Harvard Summer School. Updated Summer course catalog information will be available at the end January 2021.


Learn about modern Francophone Africa while exploring the diversity of Senegal. 

Modern Senegambian culture is the product of centuries of cultural, economic, and political interactions between Arabs, Europeans, and Black-Africans. In this program, you have the opportunity to travel throughout Senegal and study the many artistic, religious, linguistic, and cultural influences that have shaped and continue to influence modern Senegambian societies. 

Program Structure

Your studies will focus on academic books, novels, pamphlets, the arts, painting, cinema, crafts, and music to investigate the various sources of influence that shaped—and continue to influence—modern Senegambian societies. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewings, you also visit Islamic and Christian sites of pilgrimage in Senegal, shrines of African religions, museums, and village art. You also attend drumming performances by Senegalese musicians.

Your classroom discussion sections will be held in English and French. Relevant teaching materials (e.g., academic texts, novels, and movies) will be for the most part available in both English and French. You have the option to read texts, watch movies, attend discussion section, and write course papers in either English or French.


This program counts for one full-year course (8 credits) or degree credit.

In addition, concentration, secondary field, or foreign language citation credit may be available from Romance Languages and Literatures, if all coursework is done in French. Please consult the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for more information.

AAAS S-137 Study Abroad in Dakar, Senegal: Belief, Culture, and Society in Francophone Africa (34999)

Ousmane Kane
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Offered in Dakar, Senegal, this course introduces students to francophone Africa by situating it in world history and political economy, and particularly its place in the slave trade. Lectures explore the formation and transformation of the religious landscape of Senegambia. How were Islam and Christianity introduced, appropriated, and transformed here? How did they interact with traditional African religions? What factors paved the way for their spread? How did they contribute to education and the production of knowledge? What impact have they had on gender and inter-generational relations? How have they informed arts and culture?

The course further examines the impact of Senegambia's two educational systems, Arab-Islamic and French, that have persisted since colonial times, and looks at how interactions among Arabs, black Africans, and Europeans produced a culturally hybrid society in the postcolonial period. Focusing on novels, pamphlets, painting, cinema, crafts, and music, students explore this hybridity as well as the different expressions of social and political concerns. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewing, students visit Islamic and Christian pilgrimage sites and African religious shrines, and get a flavor of Senegalese village life by attending wrestling matches and drumming performances.

Where You Live and Study

Dakar, Senegal's capital and largest city, offers an ideal location to study West Africa's colonial history and postcolonial transformations. 


Students stay in apartments close to the West African Research Center where curricular activities are held.


Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline. 

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program by late February. 

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, audio or video submissions, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS): Please note that the OCS funding application is separate. OCS funding awards are tied to a specific program, and cannot be transferred to another program.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at summerabroad@summer.harvard.edu, or by telephone at (617) 998-9602.

Cost & Expenses

The program fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Accommodations
  • Scheduled program activities
  • Some meals (the program will provide further details)

You will also need to budget for a number of expenses not covered by the program fee. The amounts listed below for these out-of-pocket expenses are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not noted here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. Note that for 2021, expense categories--especially airfare--may be subject to significant fluctuations.

  • International airfare ($1,600 - $2,000)
  • Ground transportation ($200)
  • Meals ($1,000)
  • Personal expenditures, communications, course materials, and miscellaneous ($500)

If you have specific questions about personal budgeting, please contact the program directly.

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options.

Additional Information