Emily studied in Ghana on the CIEE: Legon, Arts and Sciences Program in Spring 2016
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
I would try to split my time more evenly between my Ghanaian friends and international student friends. Because I had more in common with other international students and they were easy to relate to, I found myself spending more of my time with them than challenging myself to see my Ghanaian friends more frequently. I would try to immerse myself in the student life of the University of Ghana more than in the international student hostel.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
I have always been very curious about the African continent, and through my International Studies minor at Penn State I was able to study each region and focus on a specific country that interested me. I really fell in love with the history and culture of Ghana, and knew that there were so many opportunities for me there both academically and socially. I also really liked the fact that my program was a full semester, because I think that to truly immerse yourself in a culture you have to be there for a prolonged period of time, and four months was the perfect amount of time for me.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
I loved that my program was broad and allowed me to take any course that the University of Ghana offered. I did not have any specific requirements to complete, so I had total freedom to explore different classes both in my field of study and in subjects completely foreign to me. I really valued this flexibility because I was able to see my major from the perspective of a different country while also learning about unrelated topics like an indigenous language, African popular music, and more.
Did you participate in any service projects while on your program? How did that enhance your study abroad experience?
My program allowed me to do an internship for credit, which was a unique experience to work in an orphanage in the capital city. I went there everyday after class to help the kids with their homework and English and also participated in fundraisers to secure enough funds to keep the Home in operation. This was an excellent opportunity to step outside of the University life and spend time with Ghanaians in their community. It definitely enhanced my experience by giving me a different perspective of the city and culture as well as strong relationships with people I am still in contact with today.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
On the first day of my internship at the orphanage I met the Pastor who would be my mentor. He asked me where I was from and when I said Pennsylvania, he asked if I had ever heard of Lancaster County. I was very excited because that is where I am from, and he went on to say that every year he visits a small town in the middle of nowhere to meet with his sister church in America. Turns out that little town is where I grew up, and we were both so amazed that I had been randomly placed at a church where the Pastor visits my hometown every year. It was an incredible moment that gave us a very unique connection that is still going strong today. It taught me that the world is so small, and that even in the most unlikely places you never know the things you can have in common with someone.