Located on the westernmost point of the continent, Senegal is known as the "Gateway to Africa". Because of this, it was an early point of European contact, contested by England, France, Portugal and the Netherlands before ultimately coming under French control in the late 19th century. Though Senegal is one of Africa's most important economic and cultural centers with internationally renowed musicians and artis, much of Senegalese culture draws largely on Wolof. Almost two-fifths of Senegal's people are Wolof, a Muslim people of Senegal and The Gambia.
Primary education is compulsory and free in Senegal up to age 16, although this policy is not enforced in areas where Islamic education is preferred. Secondary education requires an entrance examination and is not compulsory.
Senegal has diverse options of institutions for Higher Education - with three private and three public universities. University-level instruction is taught in French.
The Summer Program at Institut d'Études Africaines de Dakar has five tracks: African studies (taught in English), Francophone studies (taught in French), African language, education, and service learning.
All courses are designed to have a traditional and an experiential component, which may include workshops with traditional healers, artists, religious and community leaders, politicians, and/or scholars. A combination of lectures and direct learning experiences will help students gain a holistic understanding of African issues and their diverse manifestations in the Senegalese context, from the pre-colonial to the present times. These classes are cross-listed with courses from other disciplines, such as Women and Gender Studies, Literature, History, International Relations, Health and Life Sciences, Philosophy, and Religion. They may also be of interest to majors in Economics and International Development.
Visa and Residency
COVID-19 Update: Visa and Residency guidelines are subject to change and may be updated without warning a result of COVID-19 governmental regulations. Students should review the Special Conditions of Placement in their ISEP Acceptance Package for the most current information.
Visa regulations can change at any time and without notice. Students should always consult their local Consulate or Embassy to verify the most up to date visa information. Visa requirements can vary depending on the country your passport is issued in.
Students with passports from most countries including the U.S., UK and Canada, do not need a visa to enter Senegal. You are required to have a passport valid for 6 months past your entry date and need to provide proof of your flight out of Senegal.
To confirm if you need a visa, contact the local consulate or embassy. For more information please view the Senegalese embassy website.
Senegal has long been considered a cultural mecca of the African continent. Senegalese music is at the cutting edge of modern mixed with traditional drums - and the country's people sure love to dance.
French is the official language of Senegal. The population is divided into twelve ethnic groups, each with its own customs and dialect. The largest singel ethnic group is the Wolof, who make up one third of the population. Although French is the only official language, it is spoken only be an educated minority, and Wolof has become a lingua franca in towns, markets and schools.
90% of the population identify as Muslim. The remaining 10% practice indigenous religions.
Senegalese cuisine is a mixture of traditional foods from indigenous groups of the country with French influences. As a coastal country, several dishes will be based in seafood and rice or couscous. There are also diverse tropical fruits and vegetables that can be found in markets.
Historically organized into a hierarchy of cases, a rigid structure where royal lines rules over slaves and artisans, a new set of status criteria emerged after Senegals independence. The modern elite includes successful businessman, managers, influential politiciians and highly educated individuals. Still, beggars are a common sight in the cities.
Etiquette and Greetings
Men often shake hands and women often curtsy and bend down slightly on one knee to greet elders. Foul language is not tolerated, though employ Kal, a joking relationship that permits blunt comments about potentially taboo topics in other cultures such as eating habits, intelligence, or weight.
It is recommended that LGBTQAI+ students conduct personal research on their host country before departing for their program. The articles BELOW may be a good starting point on such research. However, students should keep in mind that social attitudes and acceptance may vary based on a number of factors including region, age, and the local political climate. If you would like to be connected with your host coordinator or an alumni who identifies as LGBTQAI+ before your departure, please contact your Student Services Officer.
Health and Safety
Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad.
ISEP expects changes to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 2021 and 2022 programs. If the student's host country, host university, home university, home country, or travel provider require a COVID-19 vaccination, students must comply with that requirement. ISEP will notify students if we become aware of changes in the terms of participation for their program.
For helpful tips for before, during and after your study abroad trip, please visit this page of the CDC website.
If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here. Please contact your Student Services Officer and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.
Detailed information about Senegal can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections.
Please review the CDC's Health Information for Travelers to Senegal.
Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State and CDC. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections.
Senegal's economy is dependent on agriculture and export trade. The country uses the West African CFA franc, a currency used by a group of 14 countreis within Central and West Africa.