Monday, January 27, 2014

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. 

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