Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Laura Wiggins: From Senegal to Mexico

For Laura Wiggins, the beginning of 2012 marked the beginning of one of the most eventful years of her life. Within the past eight months, Laura has gotten to go to both Senegal and Mexico, and experience the varying cultural, religious, and linguistic characteristics of each country. However, aside from all of this, she also got to experience a personal growth and development.

At the end of January, Laura left her hometown in Pensacola, FL to travel to Dakar, Senegal. When she decided to study abroad in Senegal a little over a year ago, she did so with the intention of going somewhere completely new and completely outside of Western influence. “I never thought I was going to go to Africa. However, I really wanted to do a program where I could use French and learn another language.” Furthermore, as an Anthropology/ Sociology major, Laura wanted to explore a different religion and how said religion affects people in their daily lives. Senegal fit this bill perfectly as it is predominantly Islamic country whose main languages include French and Wolof.

Additionally, the country is bursting with a unique culture and distinct customs. In order to fully explore this exotic culture, Laura insisted on living with a family. “When you live with a family, you see the little things that they do every day, so you really understand how the culture functions,” she explains. Throughout the time that Laura spent in Senegal, she grew very close to the family she lived with and still makes an effort to keep in touch with them. The same can be said for the teachers and coordinators she encountered. The company which organized the trip for students across the world is called CIEE. This group employs locals to run the program, giving Laura an even bigger opportunity to learn from the people who’s culture she wished to explore.

Upon her return to America, Laura had no time to waste in preparing for her next journey. “I went home for four days after Senegal then went straight to Mexico.” However, this quick transition proved painless as the setting in Mexico was serene and tranquil. “I was there for 7 weeks. It was beautiful. Seeing the sunrises and sunsets upon the mountains on the car rides to and from the dig site, the greenery and the tropics surrounding us.”

This experience was also extremely special as it is very rare for an undergrad to have a chance like this. “Our field site was an hour away from Palenque, where we stayed. It was called Chinikiha, an old Mayan site. Our team was made up of two Rhodes undergrads, Berkeley undergrads, a graduate student, and several Italian undergraduates.” Laura was also able to interact with a team of local excavators who served as a great help to the students. She emphasizes that “Archaeology shouldn’t be this separated context from the locals. Constant engagement with the community is key to our work just like the methodology.”

Aside from the valuable experience Laura gained from this trip, it also provided her with the ability to postpone her re-entrance into her normal, everyday life and gave her time to mull over all of her foreign experiences. It also gave her a chance to think about how she wanted to incorporate all that she had learned into her future endeavors. In fact, Laura is now pursuing a teaching job back in Senegal where she will hopefully return after graduation. Yet, whatever happens for Laura Wiggins after graduating from Rhodes, one thing is certain: these experience left an impact on her which she will carry around for the rest of her life. “You cant explain how a study abroad program has changed you but you see the effects in your actions. It makes you self-assured in the decisions you make and what you take from situations. It shifts your perspectives.” 

Similar Reads👯‍♀️