120 Days in Ghana: A Memorable Cultural Experience Past Review

By (Anthropology, Western Oregon University) for

GEO: Accra - Study Abroad Programs in Accra

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I have become more culturally aware of my own country as well as Ghana; I have come to better-understand the motivations and the challenges within a developing country; I have gained a new insight into reality. The service-learning aspect of the program really got my feet wet for the Peace Corps, which I am planning to participate in upon graduation.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I feel that the classes were helpful in understanding the culture. We took a development class; a sociology class; and a service learning class. I would have appreciated if our Twi class was longer than a week because it is the main language of the region we were in, and it would have helped us in everyday exchanges (like bartering, buying things, getting around the city, etc). The classes were quite easy, and a lot of the time they seemed to overlap in topic. But the development class was taught by an American (lecture-style) while the sociology class was taught by a Ghanaian (rote-learning style), so it was nice to get two different perspectives on the material. I feel that the class load was easy as well, which was excellent, because it gave us a chance to get out and explore instead of studying all day. The one problem I had with the classes is that the only people enrolled in the classes were my roommates (other Americans). By the end of the trip, we were as close as family; but I would have preferred taking classes with some Ghanaian students as well, so that we could have more meaningful in-class discussions. The best part about my experience in Ghana was the service learning project! Here, we were able to interact with Ghanaians and get some excellent volunteer experience in our own specific areas of interest.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I have given the on-site administration of AHA 4/5 stars because it went surprisingly smooth, relative to how the Ghanaian culture is. The Aya Centre itself was approximately a 35 minute walk from our hostel. Unfortunately, the hours of operation competed with our service learning projects, and so it was rare for me to come in during the days I didn't have class to use the internet. The hostel did not provide internet, and this really put a damper on my relationship at home. Otherwise, it seems that the Aya Centre staff did everything they could to meet our expectations. They were happy to help us if we had any questions, fixed things at the house if anything broke, and even provided an excellent orientation week. A few things were lost in translation during this first week (for example, how to take a tro-tro [a common form of transportation], how to cook [because they just threw things in a pot without giving us measurements]). I would have appreciated a better orientation to our neighborhood besides a day at the market (for example, where the closest ATM is, how to get to work efficiently, etc.), but we figured it out for the most part.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved our hostel; it was practically a mansion! Of course, there were only five of us living at the hostel for the semester; it could have fit up to 15 people had they shared rooms. It was nice that each person had their own bathroom and bedroom; we had a beautiful yard and patio (where we spent most of our time when we were at home); and the kitchen was large enough to cook a meal for 15 people (which we did!). The neighborhood, although sketchy the first night, was quite safe. We had wonderful security guards who we became friends with. There were, of course, a few things to get used to: hand-washing our own laundry; frequent power outages; buying food from the market (different than going to the super-market at home!); the heat (we only had fans in our rooms- no air conditioning, and the average high was 90F!). I had brought my own towel and mosquito net from home (these weren't provided); the room was accommodated with sheets and a pillow, a desk, a chair, and a floor fan. The hostel was approximately a 35 minute walk away from the Aya Centre (where we took our classes), and it was about a 45 minute walk/taxi/walk to get to my volunteer placement (this varied for everyone).

* Food:

Be prepared to try everything once- and have an open mind about it! I LOVED the food in Ghana (my favorite: kokonte with okro stew). Everything was very spicy (and a bit messy because you eat with your hands [which is a talent when it comes to soup!]). One of my roommates was a vegetarian, and she had a tough time finding food without meat or fish in it. We were all on a budget, and so we rarely went to restaurants. When we did, we stuck to the local chop-bars and restaurants that served the local food. Our one favorite place, when we decided to splurge, was an Ethiopian Restaurant down the street from Jerri's (a local bar about a 35 minute walk away from the hostel).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

All of our fieldtrips were a lot of fun and gave us an opportunity to see other regions we wouldn't have otherwise had the chance to see. They also tied in well with the topics we were learning about in our classes. I'm glad we are in a digital age, because on these trips, I probably took an average of 200 pictures within the two days! The trips' itineraries are packed full of fun and interesting things to see and do, and they never disappointed. During our spring break, my roommates and I planned our own trip north, to Mole, to go on a safari. The bus ride, although long, was safe. We never felt in danger on our own, but we occasionally ran into the hotel owner that increased his rates for white people. We also made friends with some people from work who took us up to their village in the mountains to visit their family. This was one of the best weekends within the four months we were in Ghana- we went to a waterfall, ate local food, and just enjoyed our time with our new Ghanaian friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Accra is one of the safest cities I have ever been in (I felt safer in Accra than I do in Portland, OR, or Barcelona, Spain). I did not have any health issues while I was in Accra. I was required to take four or five vaccines before going to Ghana, and I made sure to take my malaria pills every day while I was there (and also for the month following my return). While we were there, we heard about cholera outbreaks, but we stayed wary of the brand of drinking water we bought and didn't have any troubles. I did hear that every Ghanaian takes a de-worming medication every three months, but the doctor in the US had never mentioned it. Better safe than sorry, I took a prescription anti-parasite medication when I came home without any complications.

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?

I practiced the little Twi I took away from the 1-week class with friends at work. The Ghanaians would try to teach us a few words when we went out, but very few words stuck with me. Most people spoke English (as it is the "official" language of Ghana), yet only if you couldn't speak Twi. Like I said previously, it would have been nice to have had more classroom exposure to the language. This would have helped us in communicating, bartering, and expressing ourselves.

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

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Study abroad in Ghana!! This is the best excuse to travel to Africa and see a different perspective of the world! Because the culture is so different from our own, you will continue to learn from when you wake up until you go to sleep. This program is relatively cheap, and scholarships are available as well. Not to mention, the cost-of-living is extremely low in Ghana. This is an opportunity to make new friends, networks, and memories that you will never forget.