Monday, January 27, 2014

With Eyes Wide Open

With Eyes Wide Open

By: Alyssa Nedrow

“However big one eye may be two are better” (African Proverb). This proverb was shared  with our group by African University College of Communication’s Professor Kofi Asare Opoku. Among the many things Professor Opoku shared with us African proverbs was one of the main lectures that I will keep with me the rest of my life. This specific proverb simply implies that just by traveling to Ghana and living there for almost a month we have developed a second eye to experience the world. 

Professor Kofi Asare Opoku on our tour of his farm, Anansi Akura (spider village). 

Having been back in the United States for almost three weeks now I continue to think about this proverb and truly understand just how true it is. Before traveling to Ghana I was unsure of what to expect. Questions constantly ran through my mind leading up to my departure, mainly dealing with how will this trip change the way I viewed the world? I have always dreamed of traveling to Africa, probably since I was around 8 years old, never thinking I would actually be granted the opportunity to do so. When I was accepted to the study abroad program Ghana: Media, Society and Governance, I was beyond excited and my parents could not stop telling me how proud they were of me and they cannot wait to hear about all I will learn through this experience. 

So the question I have been repeatedly asked is, “what did you learn?” I never thought answering this question would be so hard. Mainly, because I have learned a wealth of knowledge, about myself and this new culture I became emerged in. The biggest thing I have taken away from this experience, though, is the simplicity of life. Having the opportunity to volunteer at both Street Sister’s Daycare and Christ Faith Foster Home I saw with my new set of eyes the amount of compassion these young kids have and just how happy they are when some of them have experienced things and conditions I could never have imagined growing up in. But no matter what they always held their heads high and had a smile on their face. I couldn’t help but think that if only a majority of the kids I know back home could witness their complete joy and realize that their life really is not that bad. Never once did I hear a kid complain about something. At the daycare when we fed them their lunch they were so thrilled to have food it did not matter that it was the same meal they were served the day before, because for all I know it could have been one of those kid’s only meal of the day. The amount of times I have heard people in the States complain about their food is absolutely disgusting. So when people ask me what I have taken away from this experience, it is that every day I need to strive to have more gratitude for all that I have in life. With my new set of eyes I have seen and realized that I ever thought my life could be so complicated is absolutely ridiculous. 

To read more African Proverbs visit 

Shock to The System

By: Allegra Czerwinski

            Before traveling to Ghana, I was quite frequently warned about the inevitable culture shock.  I braced myself as best as I could, but no amount of preparation could have readied me for the experiences this past month would hold.  

            Everything we experienced, from Mercola Market (Ghana’s largest market) on our first day until our last night at The Republic Bar, never went as expected.  I was probably most taken aback by our trip to Tawala Beach [a weekend gateaway on our own].  The shore was covered in litter continuously brought in by waves; I nearly stepped on two syringes.  As we were preparing to leave, a family of emaciated pigs appeared running down the beach.  They were attempting to scavenge for food among the trash.      

            Though culture shock is perfectly normal, its effects never fully culminated within me while I was in Ghana.  I was lucky to have an amazing support system of peers who could bring humor to any situation with sarcasm.  Of course, there were many meaningful discussions as well, but if there’s one thing our time in Ghana taught us it’s to not take everything so seriously.  Between my fellow Americans and our welcoming hosts at AUCC, I’ve never felt so supported.

View from African University College of Communication (AUCC), where we had lectures and classes with Ghanian students.  

            What I failed to account for was the culture shock I experienced upon returning home.  How was I to assimilate back into the life I lead before, having experienced what I had? 

            Looking back, I can hardly believe some of the things happened to me.  I actually have a hard time explaining some of my experiences to my family and friends because it’s so unfathomable to them.  Maybe the shock I feel is because I finally have time to reflect on my time in Ghana, but I think it’s really shocking to see how complacent I’ve been.

            I planned to pursue a career in Public Relations within the fashion world. I was perfectly content with finding my place in driving the consumerist society that defines America.  But now as I sit in my classes I can’t help but draw on my experiences. 

            One of our more insightful lectures gave way to the fact that many African countries struggle to find competent leadership partially because of western interest in their natural commodities.  Without a stable governing body, social issues fall to the wayside. 

            So many of the luxuries we take for granted are not even accessible to the average person in Ghana.  Actually, things we don’t even view as luxuries such as universal education, trash collection, even running water are not standard in Ghana.  With that in mind, I’m starting to view my life through a different perspective. 

The Lion in the Room


     It has been over two weeks since I have returned from visiting the country of Ghana and I have to admit that the most shocking thing about my trip was the reactions of my friends and family when I first saw them again. Never before have my eyes been so open to the ignorance and utter lack of knowledge that American show towards the largest continent in the world. It's so ironic that the biggest cultural shock to me doesn't come when seeing a foreign countries culture, but when I see my own culture from a different perspective.
     I knew well before signing up to  go on this study abroad trip to Ghana that I really didn't know a lot about the country or the people that lived there. Whats even worse than that is the fact that I really had no idea about the history of Africa in general. When thinking long and hard about it, the only thing I really knew about the worlds largest continent is that many of it's countries are, for the most part, in poverty and that there has been a huge slavery problem. Those were the things that I knew with certainty. It would be false to say that I wasn't aware of all the misconceptions about the many countries in Africa before leaving, but I knew that they were simply misconceptions. I knew this because I had previously visited Honduras for a mission trip in high school. Before going on the trip, I had heard all the misconceptions about the country and the area before leaving and was shocked to discover that most of them were not true within the first couple of days of my arrival. Now, the difference between that trip and this one is that I recognized that most of my knowledge about Africa was most likely a misconception before going. So, when I was on a thirteen-hour plane ride to Ghana, I wasn't picturing myself living in a wooden hut and being afraid that I would be shot and killed by some rebel group looking to overthrow the government. I knew that those ideas were all false so I had no idea what life would be like in Ghana.
     The first example of American ignorance happened when I went to the bank after my first night home. The bank teller recognized that I had been out of the country and asked my about my trip. I struggled to give her an idea about the amazing experience I had when she then asked me, "So... was it like normal over there?" I was greatly confused by what she meant by normal so she continued with, "Like... are is their indoor plumbing there... did you see any lions?" It would be nice to say that this was my only encounter with a person who was so ignorant about the history and current culture of Ghana, but this same scenario played out like clockwork every time I was reunited with a friend or colleague.

     Ghana is a beautiful country and just because the country is in poverty doesn't mean that the people that live there are any different from us. The people there are so nice and friendly that they would approach you walking down the street and stop to give you a kiss, as seen in the above picture with Josh Rogers. Ghanaians are not savages wielding AK-47's looking to start a war. Your life would be more in danger living in New York City than it would be living in Ghana.

Post-Ghana Post

Mackenzie Miller

It is incredibly hard to believe it has been 17 days since I landed back in the U.S. after my Ghanaian excursion. There are times when I feel like just yesterday I was strolling the streets of Osu and other times I feel that Ghana was something that seems so long ago. Part of this may be because I experienced a sort of “reverse culture shock” – if that is a thing?

I personally have found it difficult to adjust back to the American way of life. Yes, of course starting back up at Ohio University with classes and seeing all of my friends and family have thrust me back into the swing of things. However, my struggle comes more in little moments. Seemingly insignificant seconds that flash me back to what things were like all those miles away in Accra, Ghana.

The situations in which I felt this way have been various and generally unimportant on the surface, however they carry a lot of weight in my eyes.

Complaining. Complaining is in essence the overarching theme of things that simply turn me off about American society. I find myself complaining about people complaining (meta). I cannot handle it anymore and I apologize eternally for anyone who ever had to be surrounded by me prior to this journey. We have so little to complain about. And yet we do it so frequently. It really is just so much easier to be positive and appreciative.

As much as I dislike the complaints, more specific instances have stood out to me upon returning to Ohio. For example: complaining about service(s). I will never, ever complain again about food service. I have waited 2+ hours to not receive a meal over in Ghana, and guess what? That’s okay.

That’s okay because now when it takes 40 minutes for someone to cook me a meal made to order so that someone else can bring it out to me while also serving multiple other tables and my friends are up in arms about it, I’m really happy. ONLY 40 MINUTES! I mean they are serving me for god’s sake.  I could very easily make a sandwich at home – which in itself is an amazing privilege.

As important as food service is…I digress.

Another noticeable difference between Ghanaian and American societies that make me cringe has to do with children and youth. I hate the way America socializes our kids. I overheard two little boys in a store; they seemed to be about 6 and 8 years old, arguing over the older boy’s iPhone. HIS IPHONE.

I’m a 22 year old, near-college graduate and I don’t have an iPhone…

As I stood there watching them bicker, wanting to slap the snot out of both of them, it took me back to Ghana. Back to all of the beaches we went to where children were helping their families sell foods or clothes. Back to when we took dance and drum lessons where 7 and 8 year old boys were fishing, climbing trees to gather coconuts, and using machetes to cut them open for us.

Back to Weep Not Child where Precious, a beautiful young girl, helps to take care of the babies at the orphanage. Or 1 ½ year old Kwame, who was smiling and screaming with joy as he played with a string. A string. Just hanging from the ceiling, and I’ve never seen a baby happier.

It’s absolutely astounding that America’s kids are so entitled and believe that they deserve so much. The children in Ghana are so mature and self-sufficient. They’re so kind and gentle. Not here though. And it’s so unfortunate because then those kids grow up to be the general population of this country.

Again, I could go on for hours about one of these topics alone. I just really, really miss Ghana. Aside from general complaints and the differences between the two nation’s youths, there is another thing that makes me miss Ghana (and I’m assuming Africa as a whole) a LOT.

I know that gender equities are not perfect over in Ghana, trust me. But Ghana has something, or rather lacks something, that makes me incredibly envious: body image issues.
It’s like they just don’t exist.
The female body is praised and celebrated, not picked to pieces like it is over here. It took me until one of the last days to genuinely feel it, but I have never been more comfortable physically than I felt on the beaches in Africa. I didn’t feel too embarrassed to go in the water, or even to the beach in general for that matter, which happens to me all the time in the U.S.

“I’m so fat.” I hear it everyday from my roommates, random people in class, girls on TV, and most commonly from myself. Our media is so warped and has been for years, which is why people constantly feel inadequate physically. I am normally very secretive about things like this, which is a problem with American society in itself – shame - but I have suffered severely with body issues for a large portion of my life. I’m really good at making jokes out of things that make me uncomfortable or are touchy subjects, so deflecting is easy. But I didn’t really have to deflect over there. I got to just, be.

It’s such a set back when you have to return to a place like the United States.

There are so many more things I have taken away from my 25 days in Accra. So many things that make me happy every single day when I think about them, so many people I’ve had the opportunity to meet, and so many lessons I have learned. I have tried to maintain the mindset I had while in Ghana throughout my everyday life back in Ohio, but it’s hard when I’m plunged back into this way of life. Really I think I just miss Ghana.

Reflection on Connection

Benjamin Clos

The best word I can think of to describe my learning experiences in Ghana is "wow".  I do not think that there would be a more effective way to learn about the connection between another culture and the United States than to go there and learn.

Cape Coast Castle, Ghana
While in Ghana, we went to a couple different forts where slaves were held. Being on the western side of Africa, we were in an area where many slaves were shipped off to the United States and European countries. Slavery is an industry that had been going on since the 1700s and did not end until the early 1900s. As our colleague Carol would learn more about her family that originated in Ghana, I also learned more about slave trade. She told me that her family had always thought that when white men would come in a pick Africans to take with them, they had thought that their family members were being taken away to find jobs. Little did they know that they were being taken as property and they would never see their families again. This happened for several generations and the families that stayed behind in Ghana and other African countries made the assumptions that their relatives that left moved on to bigger and better things. It was not until around the 1950s-60s that Africans learned what the slave industry was and where their relatives actually went. This was a strange thing to learn as an American. In the United States during the 50s and 60s was the time when our civil rights movement was in full swing. To think at that time when America is trying to move past slavery and segregation, Ghana and other parts of Africa are just learning about slavery.

Africa in a Knock-Out Punch

One of our lecturers was a Rabi whom was originally from the United States but has lived in Ghana for over 20 years. He explained to us that the best way to understand Africa's feelings about slavery and colonization is that "they just had a knock-out punch and are still trying to recover, understand and mourn the loss of ancestors that were taken from them." While it is not something that may be a daily struggle, it is a topic of conversation that is painful for some to talk about. 


When European countries went into Africa to gather land they caused a lot of division in this large continent that I believe is still affecting Africans today. When these countries were gathering land they were not looking at the people that lived in those areas. Gathering as much land and resources as possible was the goal for the Europeans. When they claimed the land that they wanted, the people living there had to follow their new parent countries. Ethnic tribes and families became divided because of the new colony boundaries. Because of these boundaries formed years ago, there are problems with politics today. Politicians are not trusted by a majority of citizens because of the differences in ethnic origin. Along with distrust there has been corruption in the government from people in power looking out for their personal benefit or people of the same origin. We did have a discussion about politics once on the trip and this quote really stuck with me, "Just because you are based off of a democracy doesn't mean it is being practiced."


Playing Soccer with Emmanuel, 10.
I think the whole trip and facts that I learned throughout the trip made me realized how small this planet is and how connected every political, economical and personal choice that we make can have an affect on another. Even if they are thousands of miles away. Just today, the U.S. Embassy of Ghana tweeted how President Obama is seeking a new level of economic engagement between the U.S. and Africa. This is one planet and this is one unit of people. By having the understanding of other cultures, we become more knowledgeable on how to be respectful and live a life that is less infringing on another. 

Being A Minority in Ghana

By: Adrienne Green 

Everywhere in the world there are people who look like they belong and people who don’t.

 In Ghana, it was obvious to the many people that we encountered that my nineteen Caucasian colleagues were not indigenous to the city of Accra or any of the other places that we traveled.

They suffered the escalated bargaining prices, received the quizzical looks from small children, and faced barriers when interacting with the people of Accra because they stood out.

But, many of the Ghanaian people didn’t know exactly what to make of me. At first glance I think my dark skin, long braids and ability to blend into the crowd deceived them. If only for the few moments before I spoke, I looked like I belonged.

Though my place within their culture was always fleeting, it was interesting to see how people would approach me compared to my classmates.

People approached me speaking in their native dialects, extending hands for handshakes I did not know, and asking for directions to places I had never been. They would always quickly uncover that I was in fact a foreigner, and quickly that insider treatment would change to something much more distant. Native Ghanaians called me something that I had never been referred to before—Black American.

Although it made sense that they would not call me ‘African American’ since I wasn’t born anywhere near their continent of Africa, it still sounded strange.

 Traditional wrap for carrying children. Photo taken at African dance practice.

I didn’t expect to fit in. We were warned during our orientation that it would be one of the first times in our lives that we would feel different from those that surrounded us. But, I didn’t believe that. I was used to being different my whole life.

Being an African American woman, I understood what it meant to always feel like a “minority”. I had always assumed that because of my African American heritage, going to Ghana would be like a symbolic homecoming where I would discover some lost part of my history. That didn’t exactly happen. And after arriving in Ghana I had an uncomfortable feeling that despite the fact that I don't physically stand out like my classmates, my place as a Black American came with a lot of stigmas. 

After having many conversations with Ghanaian citizens I found that some held very stereotypical views of the Black American community, and I had to defend questions about those negative ideas. I think that the media in Ghana has a lot to do with the way African American people are portrayed to other black and brown people across the diaspora. Interestingly enough, they felt that American media did not give a fully accurate representation of Africa.

Sadly it was rarely discussed that some Ghanaian people knew very little about the African American community outside of pop culture and negative media coverage. But that is similar to the fact that American media broadcasts little about Ghana/Africa outside of poverty or conflict. The lack of a variety of presentation for black men and women as well as the African population perpetuate negative stereotypes for each group. Ideas of the poor and destitute African or the deviant African American stem from the types of images that we are exposed to. 

Media and Society play an integral role in how other cultures come to interpret people when they interact. The portrayal of Africans in the media affected how I sought a relationship with the Ghanaian culture, and heightened how different I felt from the people I encountered and how different they thought they were from me.  

After traveling to Ghana and returning to America I feel that I have learned so much about myself and about how people relate to each other. I now recognize in a more impactful way that the only way you can truly identify or empathize with another group of people is to admit that the things you knew and the assumptions you made might not have been true. I also learned that the way in which someone identifies is much more complex than the location on their birth certificate and

The true Ghanaian Experience

By Joshua Rogers            

At the conclusion of my trip to Ghana, I realized a few things. The first thing I realized is how lucky I am for such an opportunity. The second, and the most important, was the realization that the group I traveled with made the trip as fun as it was. Never in my life did I think I would have the opportunity to travel abroad to Africa, let alone with 19 of the most genuinely interesting people I have ever met in my life. I love to experience different cultures and ways of life and Ghana was a very different experience for me. I have visited other countries before but never with a group of my peers so large for such a long time. I have visited countries like Israel, France, Jamaica, and many others, but never have I had an experience like Ghana.

            Ghana taught me a great many things. The first is that material possessions mean far less to the Ghanaian people than they do to Americans. People survive with next to nothing in Ghana and yet they are happy because of the strong sense of unity each individual community has. They do not see the need for material possessions because they don’t know better. They have never had them and never will need them. Put your average American in to the shoes of the average Ghanaian and they wouldn’t last a day. Ghanaians find joy in the every day happenings. They do not look to money for happiness. It was truly enlightening to be with people who genuinely care about the well-being of others and not just about themselves.

            Another culture-shock was the nonchalant attitudes of the Ghanaian people. I was there during Christmas time and it is a highly religious country, so it makes sense, but no body seemed to care too much about anything work related. This may stem from their general relaxedness towards life and way they are so happy all the time. Even in the media houses, there is no sense of urgency. If someone gets a story done then good for them, but if not it is no big deal.

A view of Elmina, Ghana from the slopes of Elmina Castle
            I think I was able to learn so much about Ghana and its people because I went in with an open mind. If you visit Africa, forget everything you think you know about the continent. In fact, generalizing it as just “Africa” is a disservice to the people who live there. Each country is different. Each country can teach you something new. I only got to experience one of those countries, but I met plenty of people from Chad, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, amongst others. Each of these people was fiercely proud of their country and how it is different from other African countries. If ever given the opportunity to visit a different part of Africa, I would accept it without a second thought. I did not even get to see all of Ghana. Most of the Northern region and its way of life is still unknown to me. That’s not even mentioning the rest of Africa. The most important advice I can give is to go in with an open heart and open mind, and you will learn more about poverty, prosperity, love, and life than you can ever imagine.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Forever Changed

Forever Changed by Carol Hector-Harris

     The Study Abroad trip to Ghana has changed my life forever.

     My father, an only child, received a number of historical items from his mother, the eldest of all of her siblings. In the mid-1970s, my father started passing along those family heirlooms to me. There and then began my interest in our family tree. I had a great head start because Daddy gave me documents that matched stories my grandmother told me as we sat under the largest tree in her front yard during the summers I spent with her and Grandpa.

     Over the decades, I spent many hours in libraries researching archival information and later purchasing birth and death certificates from the State of Massachusetts. Compiling information was a long and painstaking process. I worked on the tree in my spare time. As I discovered and collected more and more information, I would sit back and stare off into space, wondering, hoping and dreaming that I’d one day find an ancestor who was born in Africa, just as Alex Haley did. But with each new generation uncovered, I found that all of them were born in the U. S. Frustrated, I still hoped and dreamed that I would one day find that African ancestor.

     When one of my sisters retired, she joined me in the ancestral search. In early 2010, we were seated at her dining room table, pouring over records in an effort to see where we may have missed a clue on one particular branch. We hadn’t, so, with the idea that just about anything and everything can be found on the Internet, I Google an ancestor in the hope that something would pop up. A document we had never heard of was the first document on the screen. I clicked on it, and my sister discovered that, lo and behold, the document was compiled by someone she knew. Finally, after carefully reviewing each page, we saw that it was chock full of census information, including the names of family members we knew and many we didn’t. It was a gold mine. So, as we always do, we sent away for any and all official documents we could get. Lo and behold again! One document said that the eldest ancestor was born in Africa. Finally! After more than 30 years, we actually found an ancestor who was born in Africa. And with more digging, we discovered that it was very likely that he was born in Ghana.

     Fast forward to than three years later, I’m a Ohio University Ph.D. student and stumble upon the Study Abroad program, Ghana – Media, Society and Governance program. I applied, was accepted and three days later, I discovered that I am ethnically related to the Ga-Adengbe people of Ghana. For the next several weeks, I dreamed and hoped that I may find my Ga-Adengbe relatives and maybe even my ancestor’s family during this trip.

     Dare I have such a fantastic hope and dream? And even more so, dare I hope and dream that finding ancestral linkages would actually be revealed to me? Very few hopes and dreams have ever come true in my life. How could something that would seem so very impossible actually happened to me? Afraid of and being prepared for disappointment, I decided that I would arrive in Ghana and just let the experience take me wherever I was supposed to go. And take me where I was supposed to go, it did! Within less than 24 hours, I found a Ga-Adengbe relative. 
She took me to her home in Somanya where I met her family; my family! We are now forever linked. And then, soon after Christmas Day, I met a member of my ancestor’s family who explained how my ancestor’s surname had been “corrupted” and discovered what his true surname is. And then a couple days before my trip would end, I was taken to Big Ada where my ancestor’s family compound is located. As I entered the gate, I saw people I had never laid eyes on before but knew I would know them all forevermore. They welcomed me, explained some family history, poured libations, and gave me a new name. I met my ancestor’s family. Unimaginable. A lifelong hope and dream has come true.

     The Study Abroad trip to Ghana has changed my life forever.

Lone Traveler

By Sarah Kramer

My trip to Ghana was the first time I ever traveled out of the country. I was very excited to being traveling abroad, but the fact that I would be traveling alone made me very weary. Leading up to the trip I had multiple dreams centered on me missing a flight and never making it to Ghana. My friends and family assured me that I would be fine, and that if anything happened they were confident in my abilities to figure it out.

I left the United States on Saturday, December 14 from Cincinnati and had a flight to Toronto, Canada. This was the leg of the trip that I was least worried about because I’m familiar with the Cincinnati airport, and Canada in the grand scheme of things didn’t seem very intimidating. When I arrived in Canada I luckily met a guy on the plane who had the same connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany so I followed him to the gate. We boarded the plane in Toronto and waited over two hours for take off because of the wintry weather conditions. I didn’t think about the delay having an effect on my flight in Frankfurt because I carelessly didn’t consider the time change. According to my ticket I had a seven- hour layover in Frankfurt, but that’s accounting for Frankfurt’s local time, which is five hours ahead of the time in Toronto. So with the time change and the weather delay I was left with about twenty minutes in Frankfurt to get to my next plane. I didn’t realize any of this until we landed in Frankfurt and the flight attendant announced the local time. At that point, I completely panicked.

Somewhere between Frankfurt and Accra.
I ran through the airport like a chicken with my head cut off, desperately trying to find gate 45B, which was conveniently located on the opposite end of the airport. I felt like I was on the Amazing Race, sprinting through the airport, although looking like a fool because running is most certainly not on my list of things I can do well.

I was the last person to make it on the plane. I was out of breath and sweaty from my run through the airport but I didn’t care, I had made it! I talked to one of my classmates on the plane, if ever so briefly, but was happy to finally not be traveling alone anymore. 

After about a seven-hour flight, filled with some particularly good food and entertainment, we had landed in Accra. I could not wait to get off the plane and finally be finished with the hassle of such extensive travel. The airport was full of people and dimly light. I got behind my classmates when going through customs and waiting for my luggage, so they had gotten onto the bus without realizing I was missing. Because my flight from Toronto to Frankfurt had been delayed, my luggage didn’t make it onto the plane with me. I spent around a half hour waiting for it, and then had to go to the information desk to claim it. After that was finally through, I was able to navigate my way through the rest of the airport to get picked up and taken to the hotel. 

The last leg of the trip from the airport to the hotel was the most nerve-wracking and terrifying experience I have ever had. I walked out to the main lobby where there were probably 100 different people with signs screaming people’s names in a language that I couldn’t understand. I’m rapidly scanning the crowd looking for someone holding up a sign saying Ohio University or something along those lines, but I couldn’t find anything. I went through this area about 3 times looking before I knew that no one was there for me.

It was impossible to hide the panic in my face. There I was, the first time in a foreign country with no transportation, no phone and no way to get to the hotel. By the grace of God a man approached me and asked me if I needed help. He said I could borrow his phone to make a call. I used his phone, but didn’t have my professor’s number and had an incorrect number for my other contact in Ghana. The man asked me where I was staying and told him Central Hotel in Osu, and he looked the number up and called the front desk. No one answered there, so I thought I was going to be stuck in this crowded, overwhelming airport until someone in my group realized that I never made it to the hotel. I couldn’t help but think to myself how long would it be before someone realized I wasn’t there? And how would they know if I had even made it to Accra and not missed a flight somewhere along the way? No one had any way to get ahold of me either.

I made the decision to not wait at the airport, but rather to be proactive and try to find my way to the hotel by myself. The man whose phone I borrowed said that he had a friend who drove a cab that he would call, and would be able to get me to the hotel. I was weary of getting in a car with a stranger (hearing my mom’s voice in the back of my mind) but didn’t think I had another option.

As my new friend called to get a cab for me, I ran back through the airport to exchange money in order to pay the cab driver. When I came back out, I was lead away from the airport to meet the cab driver. I thought it was strange that there were so many cab drivers waiting directly outside of the airport, but I was being lead away from them. The further we got away from the airport, the darker it became. We walked for nearly a half of a mile until a man met us. He did not drive up to the side of the road, but rather appeared from the trees nearby. At this point, I actually thought I was allowing myself to be kidnapped. I know that’s very extreme and dramatic, but I was terrified and my mind was running wild. After the two men argued, again in a language I couldn’t understand, we went around the corner and got into a car. I’m 99% sure it wasn’t even an official cab, but just this man’s car that was trying to make an extra couple of bucks. I let myself believe in my mind it was a real cab.

As I sat in the backseat of this ‘cab,’ I began to cry. I was certain that I’d never make it to the hotel or see any of my friends or family again. My younger cousins from home had made me a prayer bracelet that I had in my purse, and I held onto it for dear life. About 15 minutes later, after an extremely crazy ride, I had made it. I didn’t care that I didn’t have luggage, I didn’t care that I had been left behind, and I didn’t even care that I was still wearing a sweatshirt and pants despite it being 80 degrees. I had made it.

I refrained from blogging about this experience until I returned from my trip, in order to avoid some panicking from my parents. Although I wouldn’t necessarily want it to happen this way again, my experience at the Accra airport opened my world up to good graces of the Ghanaian people. They truly are hospitable and friendly, and am forever grateful to the man who helped me find my way.  

Forging Bonds in Ghana

By: Morgan Zielinski

Thinking back to when this journey began, one of my concerns about the program was that I did not know any of the other students that were also going on the trip. I remember sitting at our orientation meetings and looking around the room only to see faces of strangers. To think that I would be traveling to Ghana for a month with people I had never met before was a little intimidating. As the trip was fast approaching, none of us had really taken the opportunity to get to know one another. That being said, the twenty of us set out on our trip barely knowing each other.

After being in Accra for a few days, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the group seemed to mesh together. As does any large group of people, we had a few minor personality clashes, but nothing serious. As the trip progressed, we had no choice but to become comfortable with one another. Many of us went through embarrassing experiences together and were put into situations where we were forced to depend on one another. I found myself relying on these newly made friends to care for me in ways that even my best friends at home would not want to be faced with. Almost every person on the trip became sick at some point and we all cared for one another as if we were family. When I became sick, two of the girls on the trip who I had only known for two short weeks stayed up with me through all hours of the night and took care of me. I expected to make a few friendships while in Ghana, but I would have never guessed that I would become as close as I did with some of these people.

Upon arriving back home in Athens, I realized one of the greatest gifts I received through studying abroad was the friendships I made while being there. Myself and the other students on the trip communicate almost every day via text message in a group chat, and many of us have gotten together on several occasions to hangout. I feel like I have known them for years when in reality it has only been a little over a month since we all met. I find myself genuinely missing the other students and seeing them around campus instantly makes my day. The twenty of us went through so many unique experiences with each other that no one else will ever understand; we now have a special bond. I only hope to continue to grow closer to these friends that only a month ago were strangers. I feel lucky to have formed these relationships.