The poorest country in the world, according to the United Nations, is Niger, West Africa. But that did not deter 15 Northeastern students, most of them political science majors, from spending their 2006-7 winter intersession there. The trip culminated a fall semester Special Topics course, taught by Professor William Miles, dedicated to the politics, culture, history, and economics of the country. In class students also learned some of the Hausa language. Professor Janet Dewan, of the School of Nursing, was the other faculty leader.
In the capital, Niamey, students were briefed at the U.S. Embassy (including the Ambassador herself) and Peace Corps headquarters. After visiting the Museum and Cultural Center, students interacted (and feasted!) with their counterparts from the National University. Throughout their travels in Niger they met with Peace Corps Volunteers and other aid workers; local government officials; workers’ representatives from the uranium industry; Nigerien teachers and students; Tuareg nomads (including a former rebel); and even a camel caravan guide. Half of the nights were spent camping outdoors under the stars. In the village of Yekuwa, students purchased a bull and cart, continuing a tradition begun by undergraduates in Professor William Miles’ Politics of Developing Nations course.