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Kaylee Haskell, a Junior at University of Tampa, is studying this Fall '17 semester on the CIEE Ghana Arts and Science program. She is also an Alum of the CIEE Global Navigator High School Study Abroad program in Ghana in 2013.

Small towns produce two kinds of people- those who sit comfortably in their familiar, safe environments and those who crave to find what’s beyond, following their curiosity and need for something new and different. I will always be grateful for growing up in Vermont, but it was definitely beneficial and necessary to explore new, different cultures.

When I decided to go to Ghana in 2013, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was finishing my junior year in high school and I had never left my mother, aside from 3-day field hockey camp, but I felt like I needed a change of scenery. 

Kaylee (2nd from left) with some of the High School students and Programme Leaders

CIEE made the planning and traveling process as easy as possible for my family and I. The Leadership Academy prepared me more for what was to come in my life than anything in my prior 17 years. I had little knowledge about Ghana before I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, but I could tell instantly that this place would have an impact on me.

I was very homesick for the first week that I was in Accra. I had convinced myself before I left that I would be fine and not miss home, but it seems somewhat inevitable when you’ve never left home before, and now you’re 5,000 miles away. However, the homesickness didn’t prevail and I quickly settled into this new culture and let it open my eyes to people, places and things unknown.

 Our small group of 6 high schoolers spent our weekdays volunteering at Future Leaders UCC, and then returning back to the University of Ghana campus to take Twi language classes and group leadership lessons. On weekends we would participate in excursions and escape the city life of Accra to more rural places that took us deeper into the roots of the culture.

My four weeks in Ghana felt more like a taste of the culture than an actual immersion. The days flew by and when it was time to leave, I wanted more. Despite taking language classes, I could only comfortably say '3te s3n', '3y3' and 'medaase', which was sufficient for the 30 days I was there, but I found myself wanting more, and I knew I would eventually return.

At the Cape Coast Castle

 My experience in Ghana shifted my college and career path. I chose to move from Vermont to Florida to be around more, diverse people. I also started my college career as a journalism major, but quickly added an international and cultural studies major to that to allow myself to dive into different people, where they come from and the roots of their cultures.

I decided that I would return to Ghana for the fall semester in 2017. Because CIEE has helped me so greatly before, I didn’t look to any other program because I knew they would ensure that I had the greatest abroad experience.

I arrived on the Legon campus on August 10th, and have now been here for 36 days, a little over the time that I spent here before, and it has flown by. My experience from the Leadership Academy prepared me greatly for the semester ahead. I feel as though I am more comfortable with intercultural communications and am more accustomed to the everyday norms that differ from those in the US. I have been able to make friends with locals, travel comfortably outside of the capital, confidently board and trotro and make connections throughout the country that I never could have done otherwise.

I decided to focus my studies for this semester on gender and culture within Ghana and the issues that surround it. I am enrolled in 5 classes, including another Twi language course, I’m determined to carry a conversation, an intercultural communication course and 3 classes surrounding issues within gender roles, religion and Ghanaian culture. Even with some prior knowledge, it is interesting to indulge in conversations with locals and see what norms are still prevalent in everyday life today.   

The most interesting lesson that has been the topic of discussion in more than one of my classes is the role of women in Ghanaian society and how it is calculated, or not calculated, into the Gross Domestic Product of the country. The GDP is measured in the public space, which doesn’t account for any services that are provided in the private space. This leads to a high rate of unemployment within the female population of Ghana, because a majority of the country promotes strict gender roles, keeping the women’s work in the household. These women are considered “not working” while they are the first to rise, maintain the household, prepare her husband for work, her children for school, clean while they are all gone, run errands, cook and clean when everyone returns home, wash and maintain the house while they are asleep and repeat these steps every day. Women’s roles in Ghanaian culture are crucial to the function of the society, but never measured on the big scale. 

Kaylee learning how to Tie Dye

This has stood out to me the most so far, but we are only 5 weeks in. I am forever grateful for the opportunities CIEE and Ghana have provided me with and am looking forward to the next 3 months in this vibrant, evolving country.

Kaylee with some of her local Ghanaian and CIEE friends




Spring 2018 started with the arrival of with 39 Arts and Sciences students and 1 Gap Year student on January 25th, 2018. The students went through the usual protocols for orientation covering topics on safety, security, health, academics, housing, etc. Classes begun on February 1st.

Spring 2018 Participants with staff and U-pals


The Spring 2018 participants traveled to the Northern Region to explore life outside the capital, Accra. Our first tour took them to the Larabanga Village where they were welcomed by the community elders. They took a tour of the Larabanga Mosque. Built entirely from mud, it is the oldest mosque in West Africa dating back to 1421. The Larabanga Mosque is one of the most revered religious sites in Ghana and also a World Heritage site.


Larabanga Mosque


Mystic Stone

Also Located in Larabanga is the Mystic Stone. The stone is believed to have magical powers. The legend behind the the stone dates back to the British colonial era of Ghana when the British wanted to build a road through Larabanga village. The stone was removed to pave way for construction. But the next day when the contractors returned to continue work, the stone was found at again at the same place it was displaced from. This happened a couple of times until finally the contractors decided to build the road around the stone.

Mystic Stone


Shea Butter Making

The Shea butter factory also at Larabanga Village was our next stop. The students met the women who make Shea butter and had an interaction with them. They learned about how Shea butter is made, the usefulness of Shea butter and the economic benefits that these women have gained from Shea butter production.



Raw Shea Butter


Safari Tour

The Mole National Park is the largest National Park in Ghana covering a 4, 577 kilometers. It is home to some mammals such as elephants, bush bucks, warthog, and monkeys. It has over 300 bird species and predatory animals such as lions and hyenas.

The students had the opportunity to be up close with some of the animals such as the huge elephants.


White-tailed Deer




February was Black History Month and the Spring 2018 Participants engaged in a lot of activities to celebrate Black History Month. The next Newsletter will cover all the students were up to.





On August 10th, 2017, the  student participants for the Fall 2017 semester arrived in Ghana.

The Orientation week started the next day and the students were taken through some protocols on Health, Safety and Security. Orientation also covered 'Gender Issues in Ghana' which was handled by a guest lecturer at the University. 

Student life has been great, notwithstanding the overwhelming aspects of the Ghanaian culture and various cultural dynamics; most especially the "trotro" system of transportation - though it is the most efficient and easy-to-use means of transit in the country.

The food and music. oh yeah ... one cannot just avoid these two. Students fell in love with these as soon as they touched the ground at the airport and are still loving it more and more each day.


 Fall 2017 students at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra.

The calm and quiet on campus during the initial few days gradually changed over the weekend as most regular students reported to school. The actual campus life rhythm is getting in place. The academic aspects have just began with today being the first day of lectures Students are at it, finding venues at the various departments and blocks all across the campus.



International Programmes Office (IPO) of the University Of Ghana Orientations for the international students for the semester.


Fall 2017 students enjoying some traditional Ghanaian jollof.


Taking a stroll through campus.


Students trying out some traditional dance moves at the dance workshop as part of the cultural immersion.

Student Participants for the Fall 2017 Semester.


There are so many fun things planned for the semester. We will keep you updated over the course of the semester.


STUDENT BLOG: "Making Friends Through Basketball" - by Shakari Stroud

Shakari Stroud is a participant of the CIEE Legon Spring Semester 2017. She is a senior at University of Illinois, Urban-Champaign studying Anthropology.


Study abroad weighs differently on every individual. It can be a scary thing to do- leave home and all that is familiar for a country you know little about at the sun’s horizon. You are living in a foreign country, and all you ever here before you leave home and during orientation is not to trust anyone. Who are you supposed to trust? Initially, I like to think that people are good.

I knew my willingness to meet people and make personal connections with them would be my greatest strength while abroad. When I heard that international students could participate in the sports at the University, my eyes lit up. I was bursting with so much excitement to finally get back on the court. At my home University I did not have much time to play any sports, because before getting into college I told myself I would solely focus on my academics. I had been playing volleyball and basketball since middle school and it was during high school that my appreciation and passion for these two sports blossomed, as I had the opportunity to play at the varsity level. Playing these games granted me so much comfortableness and excitement. I could not see myself not playing- that is until college.

I met with the head coach of the girls’ basketball team who appeared just as excited as I was to join the team. I did have some reservations, but they quickly went away when the coach showed me how serious she was.

“Do you have shoes to practice in?” She asked.

I immediately began kicking off my sandals and replacing them with socks and my running shoes. I had planned to go to the gym later that day to work out, but I learned I would be occupied with doing something better. She had instructed me to stretch and run around the court a few times to warm up and join the others girl when I was done.

They were all so welcoming and nice. We did some drills together and it was when we did “figure 8” that I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I was in my element and I never felt so much at home until then. It took me back to high school and playing basketball with such a diverse group of girls who all had a common passion. I saw each of my former teammates in the girls I was standing on the court with, and it made me smile. It made my heart smile even bigger because that was home. After practice that day, Coach took me to the Sport Directory to get registered and have my picture taken.

Practices were not always easy. It was hard practicing in the sun. I would end practice feeling like I went swimming and the sachet water never stayed cool because the ground was blazing hot. They sat on the ground waiting for us to viciously rip them open to squeeze in our mouth during water breaks. Practice was also frustrating when people were on Ghana time. I would like to think of myself as a prompt individual and being late did not sit well with me. Of course when it was game time most of our flaws came together. I traveled with them to Tudu. That was where our first and second games were. It was great experiencing another part of Accra all because I was a part of this team.

We lost our first game due to several reasons. One of them was communication and the other was utilization of the court. It was nothing that we could not fix in practice the following day. We practiced hard up until our next game which was the following week and brought home a victory.

It was great feeling, and an even better feeling of jamming out to Medikal’s “Too Risky” on the ride back to campus. It’s a Ghana thing!

Kari (2)
Left: Shakari Stroud (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) with her team mate





This blog was authored by Sabukie Osabutey. Sabukie is one of CIEE Legon Ghana's u-pals. She is a second year political science major of the University of Ghana.


Happy New Year! It's the beginning of a new year and a new semester.


The Spring 2017 participants arrived onsite on the 20th of January 2017. Orientation sparked off the next day with an "Akwaaba" message from staff and u-pals and also overed "Adjusting to a new culture shock and other related issues". The students were also briefed on how to cope with campus life especially dealing with roommates and also with their host families; for those living with their host families.


The Resident Director leading the discussion on Safety and Security.

Orientation continued the next day and touched on Safety and Security, CIEE Sexual Harassment Protocols, Bystander Intervention Training. On Monday 23rd January 2017, the students joined other International students at the International Programmes Orientation. The International programmes orientation covered topics on Academics at the university, rules and regulations, etc.


The students are trying out the practicality of the "tro-tro" transport systems

Our first cultural event for the semester was on January 26th on the "Significance of Music and Dance in Ghana". The students were led through various dance movements.


Student went on a tour of the city of Accra on Saturday, January 28th 2017 and also toured the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. The Mausoleum houses the remains of the First President of Ghana and his wife. It also has a collection of the writings personal belongings used by Nkrumah during his presidency.

Classes started on Monday, January 30th,  2017.


CIEE Spring 2017 students and u-pals


Till our next issue....






 Chloe Deshusses (Oberlin College '18), a CIEE Ghana Fall 2016 participant, writes about her time on the University of Ghana Swimming Team and the friendship that she has formed with her team members.


Me with some of the members of the Legon Sharks


After three years away from swimming, I decided my semester in Ghana was my time to get back to the pool. However, being a Legon Shark quickly became more than just a swim team - the swim team is a supportive, welcoming group, and they are my closest friends in Ghana.


We cheer each other on in competitions, often go to the night market for fruits and kebab after evening training, and on our team captain's birthday, we threw him into the pool.

The team has its sights set on competing at the West African University Games, so stay tuned for more!



Chloe Deshusses (Oberlin College '18)

CIEE Ghana Fall 2016

Arts and Sciences Programme



5 Reasons You Should Live With a Host Family While in Ghana

This blog post was authored by Madison Griffith, CIEE Ghana Fall 2016 participant from Tulane University of Louisiana. Madison chose to do a homestay as her housing option and she shares her five reasons for choosing a homestay in Ghana.


Through comparing my friends and I’s experiences with host families to the experiences of friends living in the hostel on campus, I am a firm believer that living with a host family is by far a greater experience. Here are 5 reasons why:

You have a family away from home. 

When all else is different and adjusting to a new culture is hard, one thing will remain the same: you have a family to come home to each night, a home cooked meal for dinner, and people to whom you can talk and ask anything. They are so excited to share their life and Ghana with you!! Take advantage of that. 

  • As for me, I have 4 younger siblings back home and miss them deeply. Here, I have 3 little cousins who live with us.  Coming home to kids waiting for me- to color, play marbles, talk- is such a comfort. 




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Madison with her host siblings


You get to try (and make!) the local foods!

Not even just getting to try them, but you get to learn about the history of each dish. I have found that each food has a specific purpose for why it was made.

  • Fufu, for example, was first made for the farmers in the Ashanti tribes to eat in the morning before going out to the fields. Their jobs were intense and hard, so they had to eat a heavy meal to provide energy for their day.  (I learned all of this from my host mom!)
  • Most adults eat only one or two big meals each day because Ghanaian foods are so heavy.
  • Don’t be nervous about trying and not liking foods. Ghanaian are simply excited that you decided to try it! My host mom has had many students and knows which foods students love (Red-Red!) and dislike (Banku and Fufu), in general.

6 Madison pounding fufu with her host family

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Banku and Peanut Soup, Red Red, oatmeal and papaya (Paw-Paw), Watermelon, and Bananas for breakfast.


You get unique experiences that students living on campus do not!

One weekend, I went with my host family to Akosombo to see the Volta river and Akosombo Dam. The Dam provides electricity to the entire city of Accra.

  • Akosombo is a city in the Eastern region.
  • I learned the power outages in the city are due to an increased number of people gaining access to electricity, yet, there is no way to increase the amount of electricity entering the city from the dam. Therefore, they must find a way to provide access to everyone- and their solution is to take each area of the city off electricity for a little while every week or so. 

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  • I was able to help my host mom make fufu- a local Ghanaian dish made from pounded cassava and plantains. Many students on campus have yet to try this dish, but I had the opportunity to help make it!
  • My host family and I made palm oil and red-red- my favorite dish so far! It is a delicious meal that we have Sunday’s after church made of beans, red oil,and gari (dry fried cassava)!


My host brother and sister were extracting the oil from the palm nuts- to make the red oil.

  • My host mom also has planned for the future: a visit to Mampong (her home village), holding a baby on my back (the local way of carrying babies), carrying something on top of my head (with help of a friend), and learning how to make African art (from a friend at church)!! I can not wait!!


You get to experience living like a local

  • I have learned how to hand-wash my own laundry. My host mom said that even though she could afford a washer and dryer, it doesn’t make sense to get one because they are so expensive and the water goes off so frequently.


  • I watch a Spanish soap opera, 'Passion and Power', with my host family every night, and it is always a topic of discussion when her friends and neighbors come over!
  • I can participate in the Sunday Routine of eating rice pudding for breakfast, attending church in the morning, coming home for Red-Red mid afternoon, and then napping until dinnertime. I feel very unproductive those days, but I enjoy being able to see and participate in life like a Ghanaian.
  • I learned basics in Twi VERY quickly! While most of my class knew only a couple words, I was able to have a short conversation with locals on the street because my host family talks to me in Twi at home. I am a firm believer that immersion makes all the difference when learning a language or culture.
  • You learn about the family dynamics.
    • At my home, I have a host mom, an uncle, and two brothers. I also have an aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins.  Although they were introduced to me in this way, none of them are biologically related to my host mother. 
    • My host brothers are from rural areas close to the Northern Region of Ghana. When my host mom started getting a little older, she brought one of them down here with her at a time.  They live at the house and she treats them like a son and sends them to school and in exchange, they help her around the house, as needed.  This gives these kids a better opportunity to succeed in the future.

You can teach your Ghanaian family about America!

Many Ghanaian have a skewed version of America, so through sharing stories and pictures of your life, working summer jobs, experiences, etc, they get a more educated perspective of America.

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Everyone adores coloring, and my host siblings adore skittles (first time trying them).

  • The children love learning American games! Simon Says, freeze dance, Ghost in the Graveyard, Ships and Sailors… some of my childhood favorites, and even more, they love teaching them to their friends at school!


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There are so many more smaller things that are so great about a host family- they will truly bend over backwards for you, they worry about you, and they care for you like they do their own daughter or son.  And they want you to love your time while you’re here. 

I hope you choose to stay in a homestay- it was easily my best decision I had to make before coming here!


Madison Griffith (Tulane University of Louisiana)

CIEE Ghana Fall 2016



At CIEE Ghana we believe that one of the objectives of studying abroad is to increase one's own self-awareness. Quoting the words of Mahatma Ghandi, "The Best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in Service of others. It is with this in mind that every semester, we do service and also giving back to the community we operate in.

This semester, CIEE Ghana chose Future Leaders Underprivileged Children's Centre (Future Leaders UCC) as our service site. Click the link below to learn more about Future Leaders UCC.


On Friday, September 2nd 2016, CIEE Ghana Fall students and staff chose to spend their time with Billa and his kids. The students taught in classrooms, did one-on-one teaching with some of the kids, read to them and in all spent some quality time with the children at the centre.


Kayla Glass (CIEE Ghana Fall 2016/Howard Universty) is currently interning at Future Leaders UCC

The video link blow was made by Amma Fodjour (CIEE Ghana Fall 2016/ University of Redlands) during our time at the centre with the kids.

Amma and the Fall 2016 participants have set up a Gofund me account to raise funds to support the Future Leaders dream of being permanently housed in the next few years. Below is the link

Sabukie (CIEE Ghana u-pal and also a student journalist) featured our time at the centre and the efforts of the students on the University of Ghana’s radio station website and below is the link:


Sebastian Tovar (CIEE Ghana Fall 2016/Carleton College doing a one-on-one with the kids

In 2013, CIEE Legon screened the "Girl Rising" at our Study Centre and invited a number of our partners of which Billa and Future Leaders UCC were invited.  Billa took inspiration from the movie and has since developed a project called "The Boys and Girls Rising Club" where he holds talks with kids of school going age but are out of school in the Teshie Community where Future Leaders is located.








“Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.”
Douglas Pagels


Some of the students being picked up at the Kotoka International Airport

The Fall 2016 students started their journey on a blank page not knowing what to expect when they first arrived in Ghana on August 15th. In their first week, they have explored some of the cultural nuances that make up the country Ghana.

On Tuesday, August 16th, the Fall 2016 students joined other International Students for the Univeristy  of Ghana Office International Programmes orientation (IPO). The orientation introduced the students to the university and the activities that are available for international students students.

The IPO orientation was followed by a 3-day CIEE orientation which covered topics such as academics, safety and security, health issues, sexual harassment protocols, a Bystander Intervention Training, perceptions and stereotypes and a Ghanaian music and dance workshop.


Bystander Intervention Training at the CIEE Study Center, International House

The week long of orientation was capped with a tour of the city of Accra which ended up at Chale Wote Art Festival in Jamestown, one of the oldest districts of the capital which dates back to the 17th Century Gold Coast.

"Chale Wote" provides the platform for music, arts and dance performances on the streets. These perfromances include spoken word, graffiti murals, live street music jams, fashion, and many more.

After the festival, there was an "Akwaaba Dinner" to officially welcome the Fall 2016 students to the programme and to the country.


Madison Griffith (Tulane University of Lousiana) at the Chale Wote Festival


Some dsiplays at the Chale Wote Festival.

Classes started on  August 22nd and the students are having a taste of how academic life is going to be for the next few months. The Twi Lanugage class also begun today.


There are so many activities planned in the horizon and as the semester continues, we will update you on the happenings.





Gandhi once said that "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people". Since our last update, the Spring 2016 participants have been on a journey of discovering, understanding and appreciating the culture of the people of Ghana.


On February 20th, 2016, the students went on a tour of some parts Eastern Region of Ghana.

Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa Farm

The tour took them to the Tetteh Quarshie cocoa farm, where they learned about the history of how cocoa first came to Ghana. They also learned about the economic benefits of the cocoa pod and seeds to Ghana and also the health benefits provided.


Cocoa pods and beans



T.K. Bead-making Factory


Students in the bead-making process

They also partook in a bead making workshop.  The workshop took them through the processes of making beads using recycled glass. The students also tried their hands on making and decorating their own beads.



March 11th, 2016  took the students on a three day tour of the the cultural hub of Ghana, the Ashanti Region.

Asisiriwa Building Project.



Students carrying water to construction site.

Brady Blackburn, a CIEE Ghana Spring 2012 student, is building a literary center in Asisiriwa in the Ashanti Region. The literacy center will provide a platform for young people to share their creative artistry with the people in the community.

As part of our semester Community Engagements and as part of the trip to Ashanti Region, the Spring 2016 students lend a helping hand by carrying water, building blocks and mortar. They also engaged the pupils of the Asisiriwa Methodist Primary School in a Music and Dance Workshop and soccer. They also made a donation of mosquito nets, clothes and shoes to the community.

To learn more about the Asisiriwa Literacy Center here.


Cultural Workshops




Adinkra symbols

Also on the trip, the students visited Bonwire kente village where they learned the history of the kente cloth and learn about how kente is woven and its various uses. They also visited the Ntonso Adinkra village where the learned about the names and meanings of the motifs and its significance to the Asante ethnic group. They also participated in the printing of adinkra symbols on a kente cloth.


Zoe Russell (Bucknell University) printing an adinkra symbol on a cloth

'Akwasidae' Festival

During the tour of the Ashanti Region, the Spring 2016 students got the opportunity to witness the 'Akwasidae' festival. The festival is celebrated every 40 days of the Asante calendar, honouring the King of the Asante Kingdom called Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, his chiefs and their ancestors. The last 'Akwasidae' coincides with the festival called the 'Adae Kese' festival that celebrates the achievement of the Asante Kingdom, it's King and the people.


Events on the Horizon:

The Students in future will be participating in events that will enrich their cultural learning. In our next newsletter, we will update you as they journey through their experience in Ghana.



Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah,

Resident Director,

CIEE Ghana.



This blog post was written by Emily Hess, a Spring 2016 CIEE Ghana participant from Indiana University - Bloomington.

DSC_9514 (2)

“Up, down, high, low. Up, down, high, low.”

This is the mantra I repeat to myself on bad days. I take a breath and I let it out. Sometimes everything seems more extreme than it really is. And I have never appreciated it more.

My flight landed at Kotoka International Airport on the 25th of January and since then, my re-integration into a West African country has happened quicker than I expected. At first, this came with relief. Instead of jumping in like the first dive into a cold pool of water, I seemed to slip into a warm and familiar rhythm that is both inviting and rewarding. I was so thankful that five years away couldn’t separate me from the strength and adaptation that I needed to thrive in Ghana, much like I thrived in Senegal.

This is what I thought, anyways.

It seems to me like the pattern and mannerisms that I thought came naturally to me may contribute to a greater problem in the way the world sees many African nations. I didn’t maneuver all of the ups and downs of the culture shock process, and I skipped right from the honeymoon phase into the ambivalence phrase within a few days. I did this because I wasn’t willing to accept that a new experience in Ghana would be terribly different from the one I had in Senegal. I was shoving the two together into a unified, typically “African”, experience. I was doing the precise thing that I criticized so many of my friends and family for. I was lumping these two totally different places into one category and in the meantime, I was shutting off taking in the Ghanaian experience for what it was – unique and brand new to me. I couldn’t tell you what kinds of opportunities or shocks I may have missed out on in my first few days, but I can tell you the exact moment that I realized where I had gone wrong.

From my home stay in the morning, it’s about a 15-20 minute walk to grab a shared cab to school. For those of you who don’t know, a shared cab is four seats split into four fares for people all going in the same general direction. They load by location and charge by distance for one seat per passenger. I had a perfect opportunity to let the culture shock of this form of transportation sink in. But I didn’t. On the way to school, we drive slowly over roads that aren’t completed, through intersections with no lights or signs, and by small tin and wood huts that community members live in. I could have spent time to take it all in and learn about my environment in that way. But I didn’t. I saw Ghana the way I saw Senegal after months of seeing these things time and time again. This is life. And I wouldn’t touch on it again.

Saturday morning on my walk to the cab, something caught my eye. Usually on my way to a cab, I keep my eyes to the ground to deter attention in my direction. I don’t look at the world around me for the dread of confrontation with a local, typically male, Ghanaian who wants my attention. I also accept that the world around me just looks a certain way, and I don’t need to observe it to know it’s there. But as I crossed over the bridge, I turned to my right, and I saw something that I had never seen in Senegal.

Senegal doesn’t have a very effective system of trash collection. Most of the local trash will be gathered and thrown into ditches, under bridges, and burned in piles. Although it isn’t like this everywhere, the places I lived had a particularly bad problem with trash collection and disposal. I made my best effort to just stop looking at it after a while. But on my way to the cab on Saturday, I did something that I hadn’t done in Senegal since my first days of shock. I stopped and looked over the bridge.

I think a few locals noticed my mouth fall open and the rush of air that entered into my gasp. I felt as if my eyes had never seen something so average and made it so beautiful before. Lush green grasses, trees, and overgrowth spilled across the creek below and into the ditches surrounding it. The foliage stretched as far as I could see and cut through old taxi lots, boutiques, and homes unscathed. It remained green and plush. No trash, no burned piles, no rat nests. I couldn’t explain how the Ghanaian experience impacted me in that moment, but I realized that I had been wrong about the way I was seeing the world thus far. There was immense beauty and just as much to learn in this moment than I had ever given my experience credit for since landing on the 25th. It seemed so silly to feel such raw emotion over something so small. But when I welcomed it, a few things changed for me.

And now the bad days and the bad moments come, but so do the good ones. The ups seem higher, and the lows much lower. The day isn’t centered in ambivalence but wide-eyed curiosity and admission of the unknown. I can see this country for how it is – great, terrible, lonely, exhilarating – all at the same time. I breathed Ghana in, and I let Senegal out. And I know now that life will get harder and some days will feel like an uphill battle, but I’d rather it be hard than it be nothing at all.

   -  Emily Hess (Indiana University - Bloomington)

      CIEE Ghana Spring 2016