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Isabelle Escalona, BA in French and Francophone Studies, Cum Laude, 2010

Isabella EscalonaAfter four years in Senegal, I have learned that it is very difficult to leave le pays de la Teranga. I originally came on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant to Saint-Louis for the 2015-2016 school year. Within the first month, I knew that I would stay longer. My host family and colleagues made me feel welcome and helped me navigate life in Senegal and in my school. The command of French that I developed as an undergraduate at UF was invaluable in helping me thrive here. Since I already spoke French, I was able to work on learning some Wolof as well. While it was challenging to teach in an all-girls’ public school with 60 or more students in a class, I enjoyed getting to know the girls and fueling their curiosity about English and the United States.

I have been living in Dakar since the end of my grant in summer 2016. At first, I struggled in Dakar’s hustle and bustle after the relative calm and small town feel of Saint-Louis. However, after three years in the capital, I can say it has really grown on me. I live in the neighborhood of Mamelles which is a ten minute walk from the beach and an easy taxi ride away from almost anywhere you’d want to go in Dakar. Dakar is a vibrant city that offers many cultural events, markets, festivals and concerts with people from all around the continent and the world. If I ever need a change of pace, Senegal has many other regions to explore.

Since I moved to Dakar, I have been working as a teaching assistant in 1st and 3rd grade at the International School of Dakar where I also help coach the secondary school’s cross country team. Before this job, I never had any intention of working with young children. Now that I’m in my fourth year in an elementary classroom, I can say that I have grown tremendously as an educator and that I really enjoy elementary kids! In addition to working during the regular school year, I have also worked as a program leader with groups of middle and high school students from schools in the United States visiting Senegal on two week cultural exchange and service trips. Senegal has a special place in my heart and it has been rewarding to help young people, many of whom have never left the United States, discover and understand Senegalese culture.

Through all of my experiences in education, I have loved getting to know my students and learning from them. I am in the process of applying for a master’s degree in TESOL and bilingual education so I can continue to improve my practice.