Name: Amy Lou Brouner
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
I fell into the Africana Studies major by mistake. After studying abroad in Senegal last fall, I discovered that a number of courses I had previously taken at Hopkins were also part of the major. Apparently I had always been interested in Africana studies without ever realizing it. I think that this oversight occurred because of the interdisciplinary nature of the major that incorporates everything from literature to economics. While this aspect of Africana studies meant that I did not declare it as my major until my second-to-last semester (it is my second major, so don’t worry if you think I didn’t have a major after three years), the interdisciplinary nature of Africana studies is what makes it worthwhile and adaptable to whatever you envision yourself studying. The major requires a language studied through the intermediate level (anything from French to Swahili), three introductory level courses, four courses in an area of concentration, and four 300-level courses outside of the area of concentration. I was able to adapt this to my personal interests in continental Africa as well as American education: I chose African and Diaspora studies as my area of concentration and took classes such as “Madness in Caribbean Literature” as well as a number of courses abroad to complete those requirements; then I took a course on “Race and Education in the United States” and an upper-level course on “Education Politics in Urban America” to pursue my interest in education; the former course filled one of my three introductory courses, and the latter filled an Urban Studies requirement outside of my area of concentration.
Johns Hopkins is a great institution for pursuing Africana studies because of the opportunities it has to both entrench yourself in the city of Baltimore and get as far away from Baltimore as possible. Baltimore’s unique racial history makes it a valuable location in which to study contemporary urban and racial issues, and there are often opportunities for practical field experience or investigation. It makes course readings much more engaging when they are about the city in which you are living, as for example when we read Brown in Baltimorefor “Education Politics.” On the other hand, Hopkins makes studying abroad very accessible, and Africana Studies is fortunate to be a major in which study abroad is very easy, if not recommended. As I alluded to above, I myself spent an amazing, eye-opening semester in Dakar, Senegal (and for a lower cost than Hopkins tuition).
Many people ask why I studied abroad in Senegal, and the truth is that I wanted to study in a francophone country, and at the time I was also taking Professor Larson’s “History of Africa before 1800,” so going to French West Africa just seemed like the thing to do. While my motivations may have been largely superficial, based as they were on my adoration for Professor Larson and my desire to speak the colonial language of French, in the end I had an experience as rich and colorful as the yards of African cloth I brought home with me. Our Office of Study Abroad has information about studying abroad practically anywhere else you could think of that is relevant to Africana studies, and if you cannot fit in a semester abroad, Hopkins leads intersession trips to places like Ghana and the newly added destination of Brazil. While the Africana Studies department at Hopkins provides a great, well-rounded, and flexible major for Africana studies, field work within the city or on another continent makes your education that much more valuable.
As they say in Senegal, “Yendal ak jamm” (pass the day in epace)
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Africana Studies question thread.