Ghana: Past Review

By (Development Economics and International Development., Clark University) for

CIEE: Legon - Arts + Sciences

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes, absolutely. It made me so much more self-confident, I got first-hand exposure to the challenges of development and working in the developing world, and my internship exposed me to an issue, electronic waste, that I was not aware of but that I've now pursued back in the US and am writing my senior thesis on. Being in Ghana changed how I interact with people for the better - it is such a great country and I find myself missing the culture now that I am back home.

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 higher education system is quite different than the American one, as it has its roots in the British system - there aren't many group projects or class work, reading is done independently and your professor does not check to see if you have done it, classes are very large and the professor just lectures or reads off their notes and expects you to write down and memorize everything they say word for word. The final test is worth 100% of your grade and is a test of how well you memorized the course material. The day-to-day workload is not particularly high, which makes it tempting to procrastinate and travel, but don't put it all off until the end and try to cram - you probably won't do very well. The classes are very hit or miss, sign up for a lot at first and see which ones end up being interesting, you can always drop them later. Do not expect academics to be as challenging as they are at your home school. That said, I had some interesting "only in Ghana" classes and class trips; a Rural Development Experiences class was a particular highlight. Overall I would rate it probably a 3.5/5, and some of the most interesting educational aspects came from outside the classroom.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The CIEE staff in Ghana were excellent, they were incredibly competent and good at getting things done in country where things often just don't. The director, who has a background in psychology, was good at dealing with the problems of American college students, and the staff checks up on the students when they get sick or something happens.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I would recommend doing a homestay in general, although my particular homestay was not the best - it was just me and an older woman, along with the housekeeper. It was great to be more in the culture, although you stay with families in a very rich suburb of Accra, so it's not exactly "typical Ghanaian." The neighborhood was very safe, I felt totally comfortable walking home alone late at night with valuables. Sheets, a pillow, and a mosquito net are provided by CIEE, so I didn't need to buy anything else. Having home-cooked meals was great, although sometimes I did get the feeling that I was more of a guest than a member of the family. My host mother had two very cute grandkids though who visited sometimes, so that was nice.

* Food:

Lots of meat, lots of starch. Lots of food in general. Hot pepper on pretty much everything. Hope you like goat! Don't be too scared of the roadside food bars, everyone gets diarrhea anyway. It would be difficult being vegetarian in Ghana, although there is a growing familiarity with it especially among the more "Americanized" Ghanaians.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Too many to mention.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I got malaria! It wasn't a big deal. If you think you have malaria though, go to the hospital right away, especially if you're running a fever. Go to a clinic or a private hospital if you get sick, do not go to a public hospital or you could wait for a very, very long time to be seen.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

Most people in Ghana speak English well enough that you can get by without really learning the language, especially in Accra. However, just like in any foreign country, learning the native language really changes how people interact with you and the kind of experiences that are open to you. Twi isn't a difficult language, and you can definitely pick up enough to have a basic conversation and barter in the market. I found that since I was white, people would generally talk to me in English unless I used Twi, although there were some exceptions.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? People who are open to new experiences and are ok with things being very different would benefit most from this program. It's Ghana! The water doesn't work half the time. The power goes out pretty often. If you can handle bucket showers, you'll be fine. Oh, and get MTN - the other cell networks are bad.