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U.S. Department of State’s May 2024 American Abroad Student of the Month

Lauryn smiling with two Senegalese women

Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad participant, Lauryn Ford, is the U.S. Department of State’s May 2024 American Abroad Student of the Month. Lauryn is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is currently attending high school in Dakar, Senegal.

While initially quiet and reserved, Lauryn pushed herself out of her comfort zone and embraced her experience in Senegal starting on day one. Upon arrival in-country, YES Abroad participants in Senegal take part in a two-week scavenger hunt to familiarize themselves with the city. Lauryn handed in an impressive collection of locations visited and tasks completed, showcasing her newfound confidence in navigating the city on her own, speaking with locals, and pushing herself to discover new places.

Lauryn smiling with her arms outstretched as she sits overlooking a city view

Lauryn also took the initiative to start taking kora (traditional guitar) lessons every week, and had her own kora made locally as a unique souvenir from Senegal so she can continue to play back in the United States. She also volunteers regularly for two local NGOs, Janghi and SOS Villages, which work with educating disadvantaged children. Every weekend, Lauryn coaches sports and assists in the English language and art activities with the children. She always encourages her fellow program participants to join her. Lauryn brings this same commitment to her host family. From drawing and coloring with her younger host siblings, learning how to cook traditional meals with her host mother, and going to the hair salon with other cohort members, Lauryn has built a strong relationship with all family members, each in their own way.

Lauryn has also excelled in school. Placed in College Sacre Coeur, a local French-language high school, Lauryn initially spoke no French in a community where all students were fluent in both French and the local language, Wolof. Yet she faced this challenge head on. She overcame an initial shyness in order to speak up in class, asked classmates and the teachers for help, spoke French with her new friends, and dove into her supplemental language courses outside of school. Lauryn has embraced learning and speaking Wolof with her host family and local program staff.

Lauryn has demonstrated her motivation and resilience through every challenge and opportunity and will leave an immensely positive impression on all who interact with her.

Congratulations to Lauryn on her successful year and selection as the May American Abroad Student of the Month!