Ghana: Africa for Beginners

In Accra, Tips, The Art of Travel Spring 2015 by Lydia CapLeave a Comment

NYU Accra is arguably the most underrated, and definitely the smallest, study abroad program. As a result, it is difficult for students to really get an idea of what to expect before coming here because information on the program’s website is lacking and finding students who have already spent time here is rare. So here is my list of things I wish I had known, problems I faced that other students can learn from, and suggestions for what to do while in Ghana:

  1. Someone coming to NYU Accra must be willing to give up the comforts of home: Ghana is a developing country, meaning transportation, sanitation and electricity infrastructures are severely lacking. The power will go out, taking air conditioning and water with it. You will be in constant fear of getting sick from contaminated water (and you will get sick at least once). The environment will always feel dirty, and falling into open gutters will be a daily threat. That’s just how life is here.
  2. When deciding if you want to study at NYU Accra, remember that this is a small program (like less than 20 people small). Many of us complain that we have lost the independence we had in New York: we feel babied because the staff is always asking where we are and what we are doing. There are also many mandatory programs that really shouldn’t be mandatory, and of course your absence will be noticed. At times it will drive you crazy, but you just have to power through.
  3. Carefully choose your classes. Because the program is small, many courses will be canceled due to lack of enrollment–so don’t only take classes that you need to graduate!!!! I seriously can’t stress this enough. Everything is great on Albert when you register, but when you actually get here you will need to be extremely flexible.
  4. NYU Accra staff can be difficult to deal with sometimes–it sounds harsh but it is true. American and Ghanaian students are very different: we tend to be more vocal about our wants and needs, while Ghanaians listen to authority figures unquestioningly. This leads to tensions between NYU students and the Ghanaian staff. For example, I’ve found that if I say I am unable participate in an event, I am still expected to go because I should respect whoever who organized it. If I don’t I will be subtly shamed and rudely dismissed.
  5. Make sure your family and friends are flexible when it comes to communication. Poorly timed power outages can put a strain on relationships if the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand that it’s just a routine power outage and not you ignoring them.

Once you’re in Accra, visit…

  • Melting Moments has French toast (!!) and great salads
  • Pinocchio for gelato; across street from Sunshine Salads
  • Monsoon for Japanese food; on Oxford St. above the chicken/ice cream complex
  • Global Mamas: overpriced fair-trade gift shop, but has pretty jewelry and handmade soaps; make a left after Koala and it’s on the right side
  • There’s a natural beauty store in Osu that sells soap, shampoo, and conditioner (great for gifts); turn right off of Oxford Street after the first gas station, then take the first left, the store should be a little way down on your right

Other quick tips…

  • Go on all of the trips NYU Accra organizes! They’re amazing opportunities that are already factored into tuition, and would be difficult to organize on your own
  • Bring tupperware containers to dinner; there’s always enough food for lunch the next day
  • Get clothing made!! Ask the CRAs where to go
  • If people from home want to send you packages, have them sent via DHL (not FedEx–their customs officers will rip you off)

I know this is a lot of information, but it is all stuff that NYU Accra does not tell you so read carefully!! Hope it helps!


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