A Little Bit of Africa

In May 2012, I embarked on the experience of a lifetime to Ghana, Africa.  While attending school at Southern Utah University, I heard about Summer Study Abroad programs and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.  I had always wanted to travel internationally, especially to Africa, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Although some thought I was crazy, I stuck to my decision and followed through with the Study Abroad experience. 

In preparation for the trip, I researched the country and the culture.  We had a well-structured itinerary, a native guide, and were very prepared for the trip.  However, no amount of preparation could have prepared me for the upcoming three weeks of my life.  When I stepped off the plane in Ghana, I thought I had a good idea of the events to come, but I was definitely mistaken. 

Just walking through the airport, I realized I had stepped into a whole different world.  On our drive to the hotel, I saw things I had never imagined I would see.  The homes were metal lean-tos, falling to the ground.  There were tons of people, flooding the streets in attempt to sell their goods to the people traveling through the city.  The first day in Ghana opened my eyes to a new culture and way of life.  Once I was past the initial culture shock, I began to see past the surface of the country.  The people there were amazing.  Although they had very little, they were very generous, hardworking, wonderful people.

The first two weeks in Ghana were spent volunteering in an orphanage, a medical clinic, and a village school.  All these experiences were wonderful and unique in their own ways.  The orphanage was the place that I expected to be the worst.  However, the orphanage we were working in was actually very nice.  There were only 12 kids kept there at one time, and all the kids were under the age of 3.  These requirements made it so each of the children there were very well taken care of. 

The school in Kpanvo Village was the next service site for our group.  I had taken school supplies over for the students and it was amazing to see their reactions to simple school supplies.  The teachers in the school thought a new package of white chalk was the greatest thing.  I loved volunteering at the school and interacting with the children there.  Being there definitely gave me an appreciation for education and the opportunities I have to go to school. 

The last place of service was the medical clinic.  Although most of the time there was spent observing, it was a great experience.  One day the nurses of the clinic were traveling out to a rural village to vaccinate the babies and educate the mothers on childcare.  The best part of being with the clinic was being able to tour Zou Village.  The houses were mud walls with grass roofs, just what you would imagine Africa to be.  The people were very resourceful and used what little they had to make the best of the circumstances they lived in.  While we were walking through the village, a lady approached us to come inside and see her baby.  When we walked into her hut, we saw her baby that was just born the day before.  It was amazing to see the conditions the baby was living in and the fortitude of the mother.  She was up taking care of her other children as if she was perfectly able.  The experience I had in Zou Village really impacted the rest of my trip.  From there on out, I tried to be thankful for the amenities we had there and not focus on the discomfort of sleeping on a cement floor, showering with a bucket, etc.

Besides the volunteer work we did in Ghana, we also saw many great historical and tourist sites.  One weekend we went to Mole National Park and went on a safari.  At Mole we saw warthogs, baboons, and elephants.  One night in Mole we spent in a tree house in the middle of the forest, which was way exciting.   

The Study Abroad also entailed learning about the history of Ghana.  The last week in the country we spent in Cape Coast, which is where the Atlantic Slave Trade took place.  We toured slave castles where the slaves would be kept before being exported to other countries.  These places were so sacred and special to the people in Ghana.  It was really neat to see the castles and learn about the events that had taken place there. 

I could go on for hours about the wonderful experiences I had in Ghana.  It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life.  The experiences I had there changed my perspective on the world around me.  It made me very humble and grateful for the life I have been given.  The trip also gave me the desire to do better and give back what I can to people around me.  I loved everything about my Study Abroad to Ghana, it was an amazing experience!