Ghana: An Exceptional, Challenging, Invaluable, Growing, Non-traditional Study Abroad Experience Past Review

By (PSYCHOLOGY., University of Rochester) for

CIEE: Legon - Arts + Sciences

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was most definitely worthwhile! Though many aspects of my time abroad were challenging, I gained insight into a more global perspective and learned how to relate to people of diverse cultures. The experiences I had in Ghana have fueled my desire to return to developing African nations in the future as a part of my career.

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.

The Ghanaian approach to education greatly varies from the approach taken by many American universities. Classes ranging in size up to 700+ students lack discussion and interaction as the professor dictates notes to the students who eagerly write down EVERY word. Most classes meet once a week for two hours and have a one hour recitation led by a TA. Evaluation also greatly differs from the American style. In the majority of classes, 100% of students grade is the final exam. Granted, though the academic experience greatly varies from most students' home university experience, this should not deter students from applying and going as what this program lacks in academic enrichment, it more than makes up for in cultural experience.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program adviser and staff were incredibly helpful, supportive, knowledgeable, and fun. I greatly appreciated their efforts to make me feel at ease and at home. I always felt comfortable going to the program staff with any concern or question I had. They were completely wonderful greatly contributed to the unforgettable experience I had in Ghana.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was incredibly wonderful in accepting me into their family as one of their own children. I even called my host parents "Daddy" and "Mommy" at their request. I was given my own room, and they provided the majority of my meals (I provided my own lunch throughout the week). They took me to their village several times on the weekends. I lived about a 30 minute commute from school, most of which I walked. One aspect of a home stay that was challenging to adjust to was the use of house help. Two orphaned distant relatives in my host family did the majority of cleaning, cooking, and laundry. They were expected to serve me and my needs as well as the other family members. This was difficult to accept at first, but as I developed a relationship with them and grew to better understand the culture, I was able to learn a great deal from them as I joined them in the tasks they performed. Also, living with a host family limited my independence as I had to come home at a reasonable hour and keep my family informed about my whereabouts.

* Food:

I truly grew to love the local food which is very different from American cuisine. Many meals consist of a starch (rice, or various gooey masses of starch made from corn and kassava) that is torn off in small pieces with your hand and dipped in a stew or sauce. Most meals are eaten with your hands, though you can ask for silverware most places. Ghanaians love spicy food though dishes can be made less spicy. Meals are very large (huge portions), but most people do not snack at all throughout the day. Ghana also has incredible fruit such as pineapple, mango, and banana.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The CIEE program takes students on a number of fantastic excursions to learn more about Ghanaian history, see sites, and get away from the university atmosphere. There is also opportunity to make your own travel plans, should you wish to.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I had a small infection and was able to go to an on campus clinic that helped me. It was somewhat of a hassle and time consuming but I got the treatment I needed. As for safety, I never felt unsafe or had any safety related issues. I know of some students that had belongings stolen, which was the most common complaint regarding safety, but I did not face any issues.

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


* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Since I lived in a home stay, I did not need to spend much money on food, so I think I spent approximately $20 a week, which was comfortable. Depending on the kind of spender you are, I would budget anywhere between $10-$50 a week. Local food and transportation are relatively inexpensive.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you plan on traveling outside of Ghana to the neighboring countries, plan on paying $35-$60 on visas to get into those nations.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? N/A. Students do not need a background in Twi language to apply.
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

There is no language prerequisites for entering this program. However, this program has a mandatory 6-week intensive language program to introduce students to the most widely spoken language in Ghana, Twi. I found this course enjoyable and extremely helpful for my interaction with locals. I greatly valued this course and learned a significant amount in the short 6 weeks. I used Twi everyday in my interactions in the market, at my host family's home, as well as on the public transportation system.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is great for adventurous people looking to dip their feet into a completely foreign culture and embrace a new outlook on life whilst having a fantastic support system to fall back on.