The Gambia


A brief introduction to the geography, climate, language and history of the Gambia

Orientation and SMCM coursework 


In the interim between arrival in The Gambia and the beginning of classes, you will participate in a month-long orientation program designed to help SMCM exchange students adjust to life in an unfamiliar environment, introduce them to Gambian culture, history, language, and impart the knowledge requisite to pursuing research a directed research project.

Orientation comprises diverse activities such as language lessons, lectures by UTG professors on a variety of topics, visits to sites of cultural/historical interest, and a multi-day up-country trip. Topics studied may include family and kinship, religion and ritual, economy and livelihood, science and medicine, music, dance and other expressive arts. The orientation program aims at helping students to better understand and appreciate the culture, society, and achievements of African people in general and The Gambia’s civilizations in particular.

Goals for orientation and language/culture course

  • Improve knowledge about Africa and life in African society through first-hand experiences
  • Learn the skills necessary living and studying in a unfamiliar environment (e.g. transportation, eating customs, bargaining, being polite)
  • Obtain local language and culture training (continuing throughout the semester)
  • Define the topic and/or issue of African life and society to be examines for the directed research project, develop a research methodology, and establish contacts with experienced and knowledgeable Gambians or expatriates
  • Establish contacts with the Gambian program staff, University of The Gambia students/staff and Peace Corps volunteers
  • Register at the UTG and enroll in classes
  • Register at the U.S. embassy and obtain student visas

Directed Research Project (4 credits)

During your time in The Gambia, you must complete a directed research project worth four credits. By the end of orientation, you should have decided on your topic and be prepared to begin your semester-long research. There are few set guidelines; you have great flexibility in what research issues/problems you pursue as well as in the nature of the final product.

You should start by choosing a topic or several topics that interest you (e.g. ecotourism, feminism, education, fishing and farming, flora and fauna, etc) and from there try to design a relevant project that engages your curiosity and maintains significance in the Gambian community and the academic world. The following explanation of what “directed research project” means should give you some insight into what the endeavor might entail.


Once you have decided on a research topic of interest, your UTG advisor will assist you with choosing a project advisor. Your project advisor, having specific knowledge/experience about your topic of research, will serve as your mentor throughout the semester with regards to your research project.

His/her job is to monitor your progress throughout the semester, facilitate contacts with Gambians knowledgeable in the subject area, offer suggestions and guidance, review your project proposal and your drafts, and provide input into the grading of your final product. You should plan on meeting with your advisor at least once a week to discuss the development of your project.


The nature and quantity of your research will depend entirely on the problem/issue you are pursuing. Interviews, textual research, observation, experimentation, or personal experience may serve as appropriate modes. Use your project advisor as a resource for finding appropriate venues to research and people to assist you in answering research questions. Start your research early in the semester, and when making appointments, be mindful of the idiosyncrasies of Gambian time and sometimes slow transportation. It’s best to call ahead of time, whether visiting a building or a person.


It is entirely up to you what your final project will encompass—once you have ideas about what you are hoping to accomplish, you should work with your project advisor and program director Bill Roberts to decide if your project will be of appropriate complexity/scope to merit four credits, whether it be a paper, a presentation, a lesson plan, a set of articles, a lab report, a pamphlet, or something else.

Below are a list of projects completed by SMCM exchange students in the past, to give you an idea of what it is possible to accomplish with the directed research project. For more inspiration, you can consult the papers written by students of the six-week summer program, in bound volumes available at SMCM library (see “SMCM Student Projects” in the Recommended Reading section).

Previous projects by semester study abroad students

  • A pamphlet about deforestation and desertification, designed for distribution to Gambian Upper-Basic students
  • Newspaper articles dealing with oral histories and legends, published regularly in the Observer
  • A study of the behavior of monkeys living in Bijilo Forest Reserve
  • An investigation into student experience at the UTG
  • An ecotrail, using GPS
  • A paper examining women’s education
  • Interviews with an artisan concerning his plans for an eco-art village

Research Contacts

The following is an alphabetical list of organizations and people that might prove useful while researching. If possible, phone numbers are provided. Remember that this list is by no means comprehensive, and the information may have changed.

Key:M = mobile, H = home, O = office. 

* = found on “Bakau to Serekunda area” map

Abuko Nature Reserve. 4375888 (see Nature reserves)
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights*
Bakau/New Town Lower Basic School.* Mrs. Saffie Bobb Jobe, head teacher. 4495265
Banjul Breweries. Eberhard Maus, technical manager. 4391863, 4391864
Community Fisheries Program
Cross-cultural coordinator for SMCM: Bakary Sidibeh. 4392830.
Daily Observer newspaper*
Department of Fisheries. 4228727
Department of Parks and Wildlife Management. 4375888
Department of State for Agriculture. 4497897, 4497805
Department of State for Education. Dr. Saidou Sireh Jallow, permanent secretary. O: 4227236
Forum for African Women’s Education (FAWE-GAM)*
Gambia College. Jenuna Manneh, principal. 4484812
Gambia National Museum. 4226244, 4227461
Gambia National Museum: Baba Ceesay, cultural officer of museums and monuments. M:9929702
Gambia National Museum: Hassoum Ceesay, curator. M:9911327
Gambia Press Union. Demba A. Jawo, journalist. 4377020.
Gambian-German Forestry Project. (Bijilo Forest Park). 4375465.
Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).* Beatrice Prom (resident coordinator). M: 9905816, H: 4376571.
Greater Banjul Upper Basic School*
Katchically Crocodile Pool*
Medical Research Center* (MRC). 4496715
Mile Seven Women’s Garden*
Ministry of Tourism
Ministry of Youth and Sports. 4225265, 4223179
Ministry of Youth and Sports: Mr. Momodou B. Sarr, Deputy Executive Director. 4223208
National Council for Arts and Culture * (NCAC).
NCAC: “Mango Tree” (documentation). 4374740
NCAC: Bala Saho, cultural officer. 9916181
National Environmental Administration. Ndey Sireng Bakurin, Program Officer. 4228056
Peace Corps*: Ebrima Colley, Language coordinator. 9935340
Peace Corps*: Baboucar Jallow, Language instructor. 4496698.
Peace Corps*: Yamai Secka-Jack, Assistant Director of Education. M: 9961251; H: 4497024
Peace Corps*: Rod Stubina, Assistant Director of Environment. O: 4392120, M: 9961253.
Peace Corps*: Gibril Sumbunu, Assistant Peace Corps Director of Health. O: 4392120.
Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (see Downtown Banjul map): Dr. Pamela Forbes Esangbedo, executive officer. 4226152
Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital: Dr. Essoame, from the clinical ward for medical students. 9934508
Tanje Village Museum. Abdoulaye Bayou, 4371007. Web: Email:
Taxi driver, private. Foday Darboe. M: 9913865
The Point newspaper*
Tie-Dye and Batik Factory, 4392258
UN Library. 4495006
United States Embassy.* 4392856, 4376169, 437-6170
University of The Gambia.* Boro Suso, academic coordinator for SMCM. O: 4397911, M: 9938937
Volunteer Service Organization* (VSO)
West African Network for Peace Building*
Yahar Jallow Nursery School. Yahar Jallow, principal. 4495206
YMCA.* Sam B. Thorpe, National General Secretary, 4390625

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