Ghana? Are You Sure?
My first semester of sophomore year was nearing to an end and I was in the process of figuring out how my junior year was going to look. As I looked over my academic plan with my dean I realized I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester. I did some research on my own about the variety of programs that Babson is partnered with and it gave me a lot of options which was overwhelming at first. One way to filter through the programs was to ask myself an essential question: what is my purpose of studying abroad? To others, the answers could be broad but to me, I broke it down into three basic answers: professional development, academic development or cultural awareness.
Up to that point Babson did an amazing job in preparing me for my academic and professional development, and I had no doubt that it would continue to do so until graduation. Now I needed to find a program that would present a huge cultural change for me. My sister who did not have the opportunity to go abroad told me to “choose a country where you would never see yourself setting foot in.” That really stuck with me and motivated me to choose a non-traditional study abroad program. Now that I had a better idea of why I was going abroad it became easy to select the right program for me.
I wanted to study in an African country and since I did not have that much information about the vast region, I needed some help. Fortunately, the Glavin Office of Multicultural International Education, has specific advisors who specialize in regions around the world. I made an appointment with Andrea Wiley to get the most information about the various programs offered in the continent. I’m not sure how your parents are, but my parents liked to see facts and figures regarding any major decision so I had to create a power point presentation which I presented to my parents over winter break. They knew exactly why I wanted to study abroad in Africa and hesitantly agreed to pursuing it further. After the break, I talked to my advisor again and selected to study abroad in Legon, Ghana.
After taking care of the applications, recommendation letters, vaccines, visa applications, booking airline tickets and packing, I was finally ready to travel to Ghana in August 2016. My four months abroad was such a spectacular experience that I would be doing an injustice by squeezing it all in this blog post. Struggling to find the words to describe my abroad experience is an obstacle that many students face. Instead of reading my words, I hope you will enjoy the pictures I posted that outlined some of the things I did while being abroad.
The transition back to Babson seemed too easy in the beginning until I realized how much my surroundings had changed. Babson is continually trying to add new organizations such as the CREATE or CODE community to its campus so getting acclimated to those changes was tough but manageable. I grew so much that I wanted to tell my friends all about my experiences but to my disappointment my friends only wanted to know the surface details. This is another common dilemma more students who go abroad face: they are not able to find anyone who is curious about the true impact of the experience. The impact that Ghana had on me will continue to present itself as the days go on.
I have become much more patient since going abroad (a skill my mom was desperately hoping I would improve on) and I learned how to be more present when talking to others. It showed that I was capable of adapting and thriving to a completely new environment. Most importantly, it broke that single story that most of us are fed up living in America regarding Africa and black culture in America. I knew that the single story was false but I had no first-hand experience to refute it but going abroad allowed me to retain some experiences that prove to me and hopefully others that the single story is false. I think people in America would be surprised to learn that we have a lot in common with Ghanaians. The CIEE program included 14 Americans who came from diverse backgrounds. I learned a lot from my peers especially what it is like to be black in America. I may never know exactly what the struggles are but their stories have resonated with me, and I will always remember them moving forward. This has helped my study abroad experience become much more relevant in my everyday life.
We are really fortunate that Babson offers many programs that make studying abroad more accessible and affordable. My advice? Find a program that is truly aligned with your goals and objectives and that program will help you grow the most in all aspects of your life.