Amy R. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"The best adventures are the ones I planned with a friend from England the night before we left."
Exchange student at the University of Ghana
Studying Agricultural Science, major in Crop Science
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
The people I met, friends I was able to make, the people's stories I heard and the overall what I learned about Ghana and other parts of the world through meeting Ghanian and other international students. It’s the people, their goals, battles and way of life that fascinated me the most and ultimately impacted me the most of all the sites I saw and classes I took.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
Familiarizing myself with their food and everything tied to the consumption of food. First I learned to never eat meals outside, such as on the way to class. Second to always accept items with the right hand, never with the left. It is seen as dirty to eat outside or while you’re walking somewhere, so you always bring your food to where you can eat it, generally your room so that you can sit down, wash your hands if necessary. You also always eat, accept things and greet people with the right hand because the left is used to clean, pick things up off the ground, any action that is performed single-handedly is with the left hand. Same with drinking, I had to become familiar with buying all drinking water, drinking out of plastic bottles or sachets.
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your exchange?
The coolest place was travelling north in Togo, Ghana’s neighbouring country.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
How to argue over prices because as a foreigner you are a target, and the price will be severely increased at first.
Also, the fashion in Ghana is so stylish and unique, I wish I had brought nicer clothes with me.
- What was your best learning moment?
Learning how much African countries are influenced by their colonizer counterparts a.k.a. Europe. An example is GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), which are banned in Europe. Africa exports many agriculture goods to Europe, therefore, Africa must grow non-GM crops. The problem is that Europe’s agriculture is generally very controlled in environments such as greenhouses, and therefore, wouldn’t benefit from GMO’s regardless of increasing non-GMO markets. However, African agriculture would greatly benefit from GM crops, which could aid in drought, pest, and disease resistance, and increasing the hardiness of crops. Overall, these benefits would greatly change the face of African agriculture production. However, the European market is forcing Africa to grow organically, limiting agricultural production in certain African countries. However, the farmers in the tropical areas tend to grow organic crops anyway because they cannot afford GM seeds. The potential and opportunity to increase productivity and income in Africa is limited by European influence.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
My brother and sister. We exchanged a little bit of mail as well as phone calls every few weeks via Whatsapp. I did not call home too often but focused my time on the friends I had made in Ghana,. When we missed home, we quickly planned weekend trips or fun events to attend in the evenings. Distraction is the best technique. The more trips we took away from the University, the more the University began to feel like our home base.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
Ina, a Norweigan friend I made. We decided to give each other email updates on our lives as the years' pass, however, she also decided to travel to Canada next year so we plan on meeting up again.
However it is a different story with Nana Kwame, a close Ghanain friend, we keep in touch over WhatsApp now but not knowing if we will ever meet again has been difficult. We try to keep in touch over social media, which is also a reminder of the time spent together but also that the time spent in Ghana will never be duplicated. Persuading myself that the memories made were very beneficial and fantastic learning experiences help me cope with the fact that I may never physically see those friends again.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
I would tell them that their eyes will be opened. Living with international students opened me up to the world as I made friends from Ghana, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, England, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea, Japan, China, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Benin. I thought I would only learn about Ghanain culture, but I learned so much more.
I would also tell them to get an idea of things they want to see but not to stress about needing to see everything. Take the weekends as they come, have goals but don’t make them unreasonable otherwise disappointment will surely follow. The best adventures are the ones I planned with a friend from England the night before we left.
Go and see what you can, and don’t wait for a whole group of people, one buddy is enough if others are busy, don’t hold back but always make smart and safe decisions. Remember that just because it's a popular tourist site, doesn’t mean you also need to see it, there may be other more lowkey, interesting sites.
I would also say to try to make friends from the country you go to, it can be very easy just to hang out with other westerners but branch out and learn as much as you can about other cultures. This will change your perspective on social, political, and environmental issues locally and worldwide. Don't be afraid to debate, that's how everyone can learn something.
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
No, It is not necessary, but the local language is Twi. It would be advantageous to learn very basic Twi for travelling, shopping and general social time but definitely not necessary.
- Did you live on- or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived on campus, in ISH (International Students Hostel). I would highly recommend ISH because the location is essential. You live alongside many international students as well as some Ghanaians. The community is beneficial, and it's also located quite close to the pool, gym, and night market for food. To get to class you can walk, take taxis or the shuttle so there are many options if you happen to be running late.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
Scholarships, savings through a summer job. Getting a summer subletter for my student house.
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
Each of my courses was very interesting to me, I took Economic Botany, Plant Ecology of West Africa, History of Ghana in the 19th and 20th century, Conflicts and Societies in Africa (Political Science), Plantation and Industrial Crops, and finally fruit and vegetable crops. For three of these classes, I was able to go on field trips. Plant ecology was a difficult class but the trip at the end to Shai Hills was worthwhile. Similar to plantation and industrial crops where I learned about rubber, cocoa, oil palm etc. production at the university research farm. Plant ecology of West Africa class on the rock where the Shai peoples had lookouts to spy on any invading enemies. This Shai Hills reserve is a Savanna woodland full of vegetation and varieties of wildlife.
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to provide to future study abroad participants?
GMT Ghana Man Time, meaning everything happens slower and/or later than originally stated or planned. So when it was time for course selection and payment and being assigned a room be patient, it all ends up working out. It just takes time. I also wish someone had told me that when buying food you tell them the amount of money you will be paying for the food, and based on that they decide the portion size. A basic line I used often was “Jollof Rice, 2 Cedis, Creamy Salad, 3 Cedis, 1 Piece of Chicken 4Cedis and then sauce”