I'm glad I did it but what a mess. Past Review

By (Anthropology, Dance, Middlebury College) - abroad from 01/31/2015 to 05/15/2015 with

Study Abroad Programs in Ghana

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Being abroad is extraordinary and challenging. Being in Ghana was amazing. But we had so many problems with our program: corruption, absent academic director, extreme discomfort in homestays, racism, insensitive dialgoue about sexual assault, an extremely poorly designed academic program. However, it was so wonderful to go live in a completely foreign country with such a great crew of students. I learned how to be resilient, how to navigate frustration, how to mend cultural gaps, how to take a step back, when to assert myself and when to be quiet, how to take appropriate explorative risks, and so much more. I learned things that are impossible to put into words. I saw the intimate lives of people who I would have never have met otherwise. Ghana is vibrant, exciting, exhausting - another universe. I will definitely be going back - maybe even this summer. I fell in love with that country. If you have the choice to go abroad, DO IT. Get away from your college and out into the real world, experience something new and difficult to navigate. Find your way. Even the moments when we were struggling with the SIT staff in Ghana and in Vermont were worthwhile - because I learned how to speak for myself in a poised manner while explaining extraordinarily complicated problems. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes - very worthwhile despite everything. Would live through it again.

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.

Academics were not a strong aspect of this program. We had very few assignments, very little access to resources (a tiny library of books & our staff didn't point us in the direction of on campus resources. We found the libraries and computers much later in the program on our own).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

We had extremely negative contact with our academic director. The program was very unorganized and out of date (some of the recommended advisors on our project lists were long deceased). The lectures and lessons seemed random and unrelated.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The homestays were great, with the exception of one in Kumasi where I was very uncomfortable/my homestay parent was extremely rude and verbally abusive toward me and my academic director insisted I stay.

* Food:

Ghanaian food is great.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

If you're a foreigner, they will know. We attended events, explored the country, learned the language, and interacted with the locals but there's only so much that you can do to fit in.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The health system in Ghana is not at all comparable to the United States. That is a fact of life. However, malaria medication is readily available for purchase in most pharmacies, as well as other medications (and pretty cheaply too!). The staff were most helpful when it came to medical concerns amongst the students. You needed to get a lot of vaccines before entering in country and you needed to continue taking malaria medication the entire time you were there. I myself got malaria twice despite taking the preventative, and diarrhea/bizarre bowel movements were a constant problem among the students. The "purified water" sacks that you buy are unregulated, and a lot of food is served communally/is street food so the chance of you getting sick are very high. But it's just a part of the experience.

* Safety:

Ghana is pretty safe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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? Very little - Maybe $20 a week?
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Learn the language and learn to bargain and learn to hold your ground - or you will get ripped off. Constantly.


* 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

I don't think they really cared if we used Twi or not. We used it so we could be more integrated in Ghanaian society and have more normalized interactions with Ghanaians.

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? 300 German course, but I'm fluent in French.
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? Use it all the time anywhere you can. Ask lots of questions, practice saying weird things, hone your pronunciation. Make jokes. Talk with your family. Watch Ghanaian tv and listen to Ghanaian music to see what you can pick up.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the other students
  • Twi
  • food
* What could be improved?
  • academic director
  • accountability - who is reporting to whom? who is checking in on these programs on the ground? where is the dialogue between staff (not just the academic director) and SIT offices in the USA?
  • structure - more activities, lectures, classes, resources, field trips. give the experiential learning you promise.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Racial issues and stereotypes - how whites are perceived (fetishized), how American blacks are perceived (lumped into the category of "foreigners" - often a very challenging topic to navigate for African Americans that are returning for a deeper understanding of their heritage and roots), how Asians are perceived (often negatively because of illegal mining projects and financial transactions in Ghana). These observations are based on personal tensions and experiences that the students in our group had. The program structure is shockingly bad. Would have brought more resources for personal edification - like books and so on. Bring a backup device/external hard drive for your computer (if you're bringing one) People dress in modern clothing. You don't need to bring long skirts and conservative long-sleeved shirts. You can generally dress like you would in the states. Bring gifts like candy, candles, bubbles, books (can buy used ones - very hard to find in general in Ghana, except at the malls or at universities), toys (for kids), jewelry, etc. I wish I had known to call Brattleboro earlier on in our experience to address our complaints.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Independent Study Project

Course Department:
Instructor: Yemi Tinuoye/Academic advisor
Instruction Language:
Comments: Very challenging! A solo research project in a foreign country is HARD, no matter how you slice it. All the weight is on you to succeed. I had very little guidance from my academic advisor, but that makes sense because he worked in a completely irrelevant field. It was nice to finally be able to guide the academic work at my own rigor. A great experience, would highly recommend - if only it teaches you how to deal with 24/7 frustration and cultural navigation.
Credit Transfer Issues: Not sure - but it will inform my thesis.
Course Name/Rating:

Intensive Language Study - Twi

Course Department:
Instructor: Yemi Tinouye
Instruction Language:
Comments: This class was challenging because it was a new language. No field trips. We had different teachers. The teaching was poorly structured, but it was the one academic thing we did every day - sometimes the only thing. I participated heavily, but the workload was nothing like my home institution. We had a handful of quizzes and a few oral presentations. Once these lessons stopped, basically all of our academic instruction stopped.
Credit Transfer Issues: Might transfer as an elective.
Course Name/Rating:

Research Methods and Ethics

Course Department:
Instructor: Yemi Tinouye
Instruction Language:
Comments: No. We had one lecture about research methods and a few conversations with our academic director about how to guide our ISP. Very little academic monitoring. Much, much less rigorous than anything that I would have ever taken at Middlebury.
Credit Transfer Issues: Accepted as an elective.
Course Name/Rating:

Visual and Performing Arts in Ghana

Course Department:
Instructor: Yemi Tinuoye
Instruction Language: English
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Social Transformation and Cultural Expression

Course Department:
Instructor: Yemi Tinuoye
Instruction Language: English
Comments: No - we were barely in class. Our assignments were hardly challenging. We rarely had lectures, and we certainly didn't have relevant field trips (until we contacted Brattleboro and discussed in detail our concerns with the program mid-March - then we had a lot of activities).
Credit Transfer Issues: Counts as an elective for my anthropology major.