TERANGA: A STORY OF BELONGING

By Katie Allen

When her Hogwarts letter never comes, Katie reluctantly accepts that she’s stuck in small town Michigan until graduation. She connects more with the characters in the books always tucked under her arm but finds it impossible to land in a crowd that makes sense to her in the real world. But everything changes the day a woman comes to her French class and plants a seed in her mind about West Africa, making Katie wonder what else is possible besides fixating over prom, ACT scores, and the same life trajectory that everyone around her wants.


Following her instincts and curiosity, she goes to college and spends a semester studying in Senegal. This story follows her adventures, mishaps, and lessons learned over those five months, many of which involve bad dance moves, hiding toilet paper, and omelettes. While there, Katie meets Anne-Marie, a Senegalese who agreed to a language exchange with her, but ultimately results in a friendship in which neither uses their first language. Discovering that they can understand each other beyond linguistic confines, Katie’s previous ideas on what it means to belong, to be a friend, and to be yourself are challenged in ways she never expected.


Teranga offers a glimpse into the profound effects that come from stepping outside of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in another culture, and allowing your heart and mind to open and stretch beyond what you thought was possible, never able to shrink back to what it once was.

 

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