When I chose to come to Ghana, I wanted an escape. I needed a completely new environment to take a step back, look around, and breathe. This was my second semester studying abroad, so I took my past advice and applied it again. I knew the semester would fly by. I knew I had to take advantage of everything. But, I also knew I had to slow down. Whenever I go somewhere new, I get so excited and wound up that I end up hitting a brick wall. Knowing this all helped, but for the most part, I was pretty unprepared for the surprises Ghana had in store for me.
I can confidently say, especially after studying abroad in Berlin last year, that Ghana is not the typical ‘semester abroad’ experience. Before coming to Ghana, I had gone to the hospital for an emergency twice, maybe three times. This semester I had visited four times. My first tip for studying abroad in Ghana is that you have to know how to take care of yourself. Everyone on the program has gotten sick at least once, and that’s just the way it is. Even though one day I had hysterically convinced myself that I had ebola, for the most part I knew I was going to live every time I got sick. I just had to learn how to power through it and be more careful about what I consumed and when to take my malaria pills.
My second tip is to be patient. I thought I had learned how to be patient in Europe… I was wrong. Ghanaian Time runs on an entirely different clock than that in the West. Forget about rushing–no one is even concerned about efficiency. That word doesn’t exist. But no one here is bothered by that. Thankfully, I really don’t mind sitting in one spot for hours, spacing out while I wait for fried chicken. And when I know that every meeting will run forty minutes late, or that a three hour car ride really means a seven hour car ride, I can relax. It was a little hard at first, but now I will never get stressed out when something is beyond my control.
My last tip is to stay light hearted, and try to have fun in every situation. Ghanaians are very happy people, and even in the most dire situations, I have never seen a Ghanaian get frustrated or yell. I think this can be very frustrating for Americans, especially New Yorkers, because it is hard for us to remain calm and not get frustrated. This tip also applies to the nightlife here. For the most part, the clubs in Accra are very bougie, vacant, and don’t play the best music. People here only party between midnight and 3Am. There are not very many bars, and the local beers taste like diluted acid. Again, maybe it’s because I studied abroad in Berlin and experienced the world’s best nightlife, but I had a pretty hard time adjusting to this new scene. I had to learn to have fun wherever I went, and now I don’t care where I end up or if a club is empty. Just being in Africa is thrilling enough.
Studying in Ghana is an extremely rewarding, but sometimes it can seem like the most difficult place to live in. Thankfully, when times are tough, you can buy a mango and sit on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Ghana is a great study abroad site, and it is an experience you won’t be able to recreate anywhere else.