Santa Clara University


Program Overview

A Study Abroad & Immersion Program


  • Fall Only
Program Highlights:
  • Read novels of French West Africa
  • Intern in a village community library helping children read
  • Create and publish two books of photographs about village life in Burkina Faso
  • Engage with development challenges of Burkina Faso, one of world's poorest countries
  • Immerse yourself in French for four months

Admission Requirements:
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • No prior French language required
  • In good standing with home university

Academic Overview

The program offers five set courses taught by Santa Clara University and local faculty.

  • The Literature of Francophone Africa and French in Francophone Africa classes take advantage of the Francophone setting and deepen students’ understanding and abilities in the French language.The first course is an intensive reading of novels of West Africa.The second course is an introductory French course tailored to the level of the student. Students have joint sessions to cover grammar, and individual sessions with tutors (university students or graduates, for conversational and reading tutorials). These two intensive courses take place during September and early October in Ouagadougou. For the remainder of the semester students maintain a journal in French, writing down observations and vocabulary learned in a village setting, and reflecting on novels that will be read and discussed with village students and teachers.

  • The Development Economics: West Africa course introduces students to urgent questions of development, understood as poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth, using examples drawn from West Africa.Emphasis will be placed on the critical study of the role of public organizations in civic life in terms of fostering a political culture (rule of law, transparency, and concern for social inclusion) that promotes development. Burkina Faso has an active civil society, and the course will include conversations with activists in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), policy makers of Burkina Faso, multinational corporations, the World Bank, entrepreneurs, economic specialists in the U.S. embassy, and visits to projects and private sector production facilities. The course includes an in-depth discussion of local rural institutions that prepares students for and complements the community-based learning course.

  • The Community-Based Learning in Village Libraries and Photography in West Africa classes develop students’ capacities for using photography in civic and community engagement. Students earn the basics of photography and then live in a village for six weeks during which time they conceptualize and produce two quality books for use in local village libraries.Students learn how to compose an aesthetically satisfactory photograph (e.g. portraits, landscapes, and casuals), how to use photo-editing software to enhance reproduction quality, how to use Adobe Indesign to create a book, and how to take an electronic book file to a publisher for a small print run. The books are then distributed to local public libraries. The six weeks immersion and volunteer work in small public libraries fosters in students an empathetic solidarity with the difficult lives of villagers in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries of the world.The course permits achievement of one of Santa Clara University’s important goals in its new Core Curriculum: “to interact appropriately, sensitively, and self-critically with people in the communities in which they work and to appreciate the formal and informal knowledge, wisdom, and skills that individuals in these communities possess.”

Creating Books

"Creating and publishing our books is definitely a highlight of the program. Its a very cool opportunity to not only engage in the community and experience what village life is really like, but to encourage Burkinabe kids to read something that they can relate to. The kids love that when they open a book they might see their picture on the first page, they get the biggest smiles when they see someone they recognize in the books. Its really rewarding to see them so excited about books."- Kara Coughlin (RWA Fall 2010)

The books are a collaborative project involving French, photography, and civic engagement. Students spend time in the village, taking photos of some of the most defining aspects. Some students are particularly struck by celebrations and feast days, others by everyday village life. They then have the opportunity to take those themes and create a book out of the photos they have taken that in some way, actively engages the community. The text for these books are written in French with the help of local teachers and professors. When the books have been assembled and published, they are sent back to the villages for the villagers, young and old, to enjoy. The books always turn out beautiful and very well loved!

Visit scenic and culturally interesting sites in the region.  Students travel to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso for long weekends to explore the culture and history of the town, and have further instruction in photography techniques.  The program also includes a week-long trip to a destination in the region.  Past cohorts have visited the beautiful Mole National game park in northern Ghana, and trekked through the Dogon cliffs of northern Burkina Faso.  Future trips might be to the famous Parc W in eastern Burkina faso, the Sindou Peaks of southern Burkina Faso, Nazinga game park near the Burkina-Ghana border, or the Lobi country of southwestern Burkina.
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