A life-changing trip of self-discovery through music and dance Past Review

By (Music Education, Boston Conservatory) - abroad from 07/10/2014 to 07/31/2014 with

ThisWorldMusic: Traveling - Study in Ghana: Music, Arts, Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Note: I only say I wouldn't choose the same program again because now that I have visited sites like Cape Coast Castle and the Kakum National Park, I believe that I would rather save the money for things like more private lessons or other such expenses. As far as returning to Dagbe again, I ABSOLUTELY plan to do it eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, and would love to stay even longer than two weeks. I would also certainly recommend ThisWorldMusic as a program in a heartbeat, and might even do the same program again (though, like I said, I don't particularly feel the need to visit the more touristy sites more than once). Was it worthwhile? YES! It was worth all the time and every single penny spent. As far as what I gained, that is almost impossible to put into words. I have always felt a pull towards West Africa and its music, and being there has only intensified my love for Ewe drumming and culture. I gained so many skills as a percussionist and musician, and my confidence and enjoyment in my dancing skyrocketed. Aside from that though, there were intangible and transcendental qualities about Kopeyia, Dagbe, and its people that have had what I predict to be a permanent impact on my life. Rather than feeling exhausted when I returned home, I felt renewed and energized. I returned with an intent to live more in the moment, pursue my true passions, and not let anyone or anything get in the way of what would make me happy. The serene atmosphere at Dagbe and the ability to be "off the grid" helped me to leave the constant white noise of the city and get in touch with myself and those around me. Traveling by myself, in a different country where people spoke many different languages, with a group of Americans who started out as complete strangers to me, meant that I had to abandon all the material and external things that tied me to a certain identity back in the States. I had to figure out how those around me perceived me and if it matched the perception I had (or wanted to have) of myself. It was a challenge, but also a period of a lot of growth in a rather short timespan. Furthermore, the group of American "strangers" all ended up supporting each other throughout the trip and becoming very close. I left knowing that I had made quite a few good friends, as we were brought together by a very unique shared experience.

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 experience at Dagbe provided a variety of options for students at widely varied skill levels. This took the form of differentiated instruction in drumming class, splitting the drumming class to offer a wider array of options for a group lesson (basket weaving, kente cloth weaving), and of course, optional private instruction where students could progress at their own pace. While the drumming and dancing classes were certainly challenging, the rest of the time at Dagbe was flexible enough for each student to decide his or her own pace of learning and practicing. The staff was eager to accommodate any request for a private lesson, whether it be drumming, dancing, crafts, batik, singing, learning the Ewe language, cooking, discussing religious practices, and more.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff at Dagbe was more than I could have asked for. They immediately made us feel welcome and like we belonged. They pushed us hard in our classes, but consistently gave us positive reinforcement. We were given many opportunities to participate in outside events and pursue our own interests around the village. I feel so fortunate that we stayed at a place like Dagbe. It is truly a special place run by very caring, patient, and talented people.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Although there is no running water, the showers here were better than the ones we had at hotels in Ghana! The staff does an excellent job at keeping everything clean. Mosquito netting is provided for all the beds, which is great at keeping bugs away at night.

* Food:

I am a vegetarian, and found it not only do-able, but easy to meet all my dietary needs here. The kitchen staff would even provide vegetarian options frequently when they served meat (such as pies filled with onions and vegetables when they put out meat pies).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is a hard question to answer, as I don't think any of us would ever consider ourselves fully "integrated," no matter how long we stayed there. It is very easy to stick out as a Westerner, and it made for a quite a bit of culture shock and some uneasiness at the beginning for me. However, it was incredible how welcoming everyone was. The staff at Dagbe really helped us with our trips to the market or nearby villages. They informed us of correct customs and behaviors, and would teach us appropriate dances for occasions like funerals. Learning a few basic phrases in Ewe was also key! Staying in a village (as opposed to a city/the capital) really helped us connect with the locals and learn about their way of life. We were far removed from other tourists and tourist attractions, so we got a very unique opportunity to become very familiar with local customs, traditions, and daily routines.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had vaccinations before leaving for this program. Other than that, I didn't require any health care while abroad, and for minor issues, my trip leaders were extremely well-stocked with supplies and knowledgeable.

* Safety:

Kopeyia felt extremely safe. The village and cultural center always had such a peaceful air to it. I felt much more relaxed and secure than in the city where I currently live in the US.

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)

After the initial cost of the trip, it was quite easy to afford any expenses we ran into it. The exchange rate works in favor of the US Dollar, and at most places you can haggle to a lower price. All food and bottled water was covered while we were at Dagbe, which was hugely helpful as far as budgeting!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I took about 10 optional private lessons per week at $10 per lesson, for a total of $100 per week while at Dagbe. Food/bottled water was probably about $15-20/day while NOT at Dagbe.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? For souvenir shopping (especially the first time in the Arts Market), it is a little overwhelming. I would suggest having a set price in your head before you go to haggle for something. Be ready to just walk away, and there will always be another store or opportunity to come back if you are not satisfied with the price they are asking of you. Also, sometimes an hour lesson was a little too much for me (if I was mentally or physically too tired or had taken a lot of lessons already that day), so I would ask the teacher if I could do a half hour now and a half hour later. They usually agreed and I felt I got much more out of that, being able to have some rest/practice time in between.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Village events and ceremonies (funerals, festivals, etc.)
  • The final performance and party
  • The people!
* What could be improved?
  • Perhaps a short Ewe lesson right at the beginning of our stay to help us comminucate
  • I don't think the staff remembered everyone's name (understandable...but it might be nice to do more frequent name reviews so they can use our names in rehearsals and such)
  • A small detail: Perhaps working out the coordination of the airport drop-off at the end of the trip...Having to go to the airport the same time as everyone else and then wait 6 hours before my flight made a very long trip home even longer
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I did not know there was a school right in Kopeyia...I would have brought books for the kids :( I actually didn't know there would be so many kids in general. I wanted to share a bunch of songs and games with them but totally blanked while I was over there. If I knew there were lots of kids I would have come more prepared with some camp songs/music class games to share with them!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.