Perpetually Confused Past Review

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/29/2016 to 05/31/2016 with

CIEE: Legon - Arts + Sciences

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I would say that my experience was worthwhile. Even though my experiences in Ghana were uncomfortable, they have allowed me to exist and learn from being a minority. I have never felt in the minority, besides when it comes to my religion, which happens frequently to me. i know that I have no idea what it is like to be someone in the minority in the United States based on race, but I want to use my experience in Ghana to become a better ally and advocate for those who are marginalized.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

To be completely honest, I did not learn (academically) at the University of Ghana. The level of intensity did not match up to Brandeis University. Some of my professors were okay, but many of them did not teach or did not teach well. For example, one of my professors targeted international students. There were about 400 or more students in our class and approximately 10 of us were international students. He called us out so that the other students could laugh at our expense. Then instead of teaching, he would go on these long tangents about why women are inferior. My friends made a wonderful decision to never pay attention in that class, and I truly regret not following their lead. I was the only one actually taking notes, which makes the next few sentences even worse to say. For example, one day our professor was talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism in Africa, which is an important topic to discuss. So my professor was talking about Al-Shabbab in Somalia and somehow asked the class if we knew what consummation was. I was completely baffled. Then he began talking about how you need to "try out a woman to make sure she works" and compared it to purchasing something from a store and wanting to make sure that it could preform. If the item did not do its job, then you must return it. Unfortunately, I was listening, which was a huge mistake because 1) I could not say anything and my reaction would have caused the non-interancitonal students to judge me 2) I began getting more and more agitated and 3) for the most part, none of my friends were paying attention, as they knew it would result in frustration, so I had no one to commiserate with.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They were amazing! The only issue many of us had was with the gender dynamics going on. I acknowledge that is more of a cultural issue though.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The hostels were okay. My roommate and I had a nice sized room. The bathrooms were atrocious, but it was livable. We did not have malaria nets for the first couple nights, which was worrisome.

* Food:

Since I am a vegetarian, it was difficult when it came to consuming food. Also, prospective students should be careful when eating vegetables and fruits.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I think many people on my program (including me) struggled to become integrated into Ghanaian culture. As a student studying abroad, I was excited to meet Ghanaian students and share our cultures. However, foreign students were mostly unwelcome and disliked by Ghanaian students and faculty at the University of Ghana. Women strongly disliked us because many Ghanaian men pursue foreign women. Ghanaian men seemed to believe that they were entitled to our bodies and that we did not have the right to say no. Obviously, this is a generalization, but it is one that I feel is worth saying as it eliminated the possibility of having friendships with men in Ghana. My program was dominated by women and the majority of us agreed with the statements above. It was incredibly difficult to make Ghanaian friends because of the stereotypes people held about foreigners (or in my case foreign women). For example, Ghanaians tend to believe that foreigners have a significant amount of money and that we are individualistic, among other things. These stereotypes make it hard to become close with people. Also, the way the men interacted with women (although cultural, too) was distributing to me. There was this disconnect. I wanted to integrate with my surroundings, however, I did not agree with the gendered practices and the way I was being treated.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

A few of the people on my program were affected by health challenges, ranging from typhoid and malaria to car accidents and parasites. My program handled all of the health challenges with professionalism and sensitivity. I had the opportunity to experience a health concern while in Ghana. I had some sort of a parasite or something (no one told me exactly what was wrong with me). I thought I had malaria, even though I had been using the bed net and taking my pills daily. I went to a CIEE referred private hospital in Accra and they checked me for malaria and typhoid. Thankfully, I had neither, but I had some sort of an infection. They prescribed 6 different medications and wanted me to take them while I was in the hospital, however they would not let me because I had not eaten anything that day. I went back to the dorms and rested. It was the first time I felt cold in Ghana (and we did not have electricity that particular day). I was able to take some medicine with a few crackers, but, ultimately, became sicker and my roommate took me back to the hospital that night. I was checked in and told that I needed to stay the night, as my temperature kept rising. The doctor was incredibly sexist and condescending and made me cry. While the hospital was clean, there were bugs all over my hospital room, including on my bed. My roommate (she literally saved my life) would get the nurse or doctor when my IV bags needed to be changed and then my roommate would change the bag sometimes. Many times, the staff would forget about me so my roommate would go looking for members of the hospital staff. At one point during my 36 hour stay at the hospital, my roommate had gone back to the hostel to grab some supplies, and an IV bag had finished. I freaked out because my blood started flowing into the IV tube and I knew that I needed to find a nurse or someone. I was on the bottom floor of the hospital. I got up from my bed, opened the door with the hand that was not attached to my IV contraption, and looked for someone outside my door. Sadly, there was no one around. I proceeded to walk upstairs to search for someone to change my IV bag. I was worried because someone in the hospital had mentioned how you don't want to leave an empty IV in your arm because then air bubbles will get into your skin (I'm no medical genus, but that does not sound pleasant). I finally found someone and eventually a nurse came into my room. There are many differences between the private hospital that I stayed in and American hospitals. The hospital I stayed in was not expected to feed me, which in my case was not helpful because I had not really eaten in days. Someone from the CIEE staff brought me bread, which I am eternally grateful for. Thankfully, I was not too scared while in the hospital. I knew that I was going to live and I just needed to get through it.

* Safety:

During my time in Ghana, there were multiple terrorist attacks on neighboring countries. There was a terrorist warning affecting Ghana because it seemed like Ghana was going to be attacked soon. However, I never felt unsafe in that way. BUT, I did feel unsafe as a white female, quite frequently, actually. I was grabbed and harassed by men. Men walking on campus, professors, proctors, etc. Because of the perception that Ghanaians have of American (or foreign) women, they believe that they are entitled to our bodies. There was moderate stealing in the dorms.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I am not sure. I think that if I had known what the educational experience would be like, I would have been hesitant. But, I am thankful for the experience that I did have.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

It was relatively easy as things were cheaper in Ghana.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I'm not exactly sure, but I would say around $60-$80/week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Keep track of how much you are spending!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We were required to take a Twi class so that we could integrate into Ghanaian society. Learning Twi was super helpful when it came to bartering in a market or taking a tro tro (public bus).

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had taken Spanish 3 (not related to Ghana at all since they do not speak Spanish there). I have also taken a few Swahili courses and spent some time in Tanzania. I took Swahili at the University of Ghana, too. Although, Swahili is not spoken in Ghana.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Buy an language book!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • CIEE staff
  • people on my program
  • learning a new language
* What could be improved?
  • the education
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? * that I would not have learned much through my classes * gender related issues * how foreign women are treated * how difficult it is to make local friends *