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.
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.
Madison pounding fufu with her host family
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.
- 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.
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!
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