Saturday, February 15, 2014

IIJ’s Ghana program tests new waters, builds new relationships


There are some assumptions that Africa is ‘all desert and no cities.’ That Africa is a very poor continent with starving children.
While most OU Bobcats remained in snowy, ice-cold weather over winter break, 19 Scripps College students traveled across the Atlantic and shattered these stereotypes and more on the first journalism study abroad trip to Ghana, organized by the Institute for International Journalism (IIJ).
Director of the African Studies Program, Dr. Steve Howard and Director of the IIJ, Dr. Yusuf Kalyango, led the students through their experiential learning in Ghana for three and a half weeks, where they tried new foods, learned traditional dances, volunteered or interned at local media organizations, NGOs, and toured historical museums and landmarks.
Although only 19 students traveled to Ghana, 76 aspirants applied to be a part of the program.
“We spent a lot of time finding ways for young Americans to see Africa,” Howard said of the planning process he conducted with Kalyango.
Howard added that the students’ interactions with the local Ghanaians and their integration into the culture were generally “impressive.”
“I found Ghanaians to be very welcoming and hospitable, especially because we were obviously minorities,” said Michelle Robinson, one of the OU students who studied abroad. “Everyone was eager to welcome us and help us in any way we needed, which made the transition from Athens to Africa much easier.”

With the world as their oysters, the students gained rich, cultural knowledge not only through tourism, but through internship experiences as well.
Robinson, for example, worked at E.TV, a television station based in Accura, Ghana. While interning, she and other students had the opportunity to cover the National Parliament, covered sexual health topics and another about passport control, among others.
On top of building work relationships, participants also built relationships as they balanced their coursework at the African University College of Communication (AUCC) located in Accra.
“The students and their professors were at AUCC as part of one or two credit classes on Media, Society and Governance that required students to stimulate and broaden their thinking… in Ghana through experiential learning in a university in a foreign country,” according to a news article from AUCC.
Robinson said her favorite part of the courses at the college was the opportunity to participate and engage in conversation rather than sitting through a lecture.
For example, one topic discussed involved journalism ethics and comparing the concept in African journalism and American journalism.
“(That) was my favorite lecture because we got to learn how Ghana is becoming more advanced in their news standards and reporting than ever before,” Robinson said.
The AUCC article also expressed Ohio University student’s appreciation for the intriguing traditions and the passion of journalism students abroad.
“(We witnessed rituals such as) pouring of libation as a form of prayer to ancestors, the use of proverbs in communication, the use of Adinkra symbols as a form of communication and the tradition of providing drinking water to welcome visitors in Ghana,” Joe Jackson, one of the Ohio University students, said in the article.


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