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

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“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




Dear Friends and colleagues,


Spring 2016 students arrive onsite


After brazing the snow storm that grounded all flights in the East Coast, the 24 Spring 2016 Ghana participants have safely arrived onsite.

On Tuesday, January 26th, participants attended the International Programmes Office (IPO) orientation, where the authorities of the University of Ghana touched on a lot of issues, including health and safety at the university and extracurricular activities available to students.


Spring 2016 Participants at IPO orientation.


Following the IPO orientation, they went to the mall to purchase local phones and sim cards and also to exchange money.

CIEE Orientation started on Wednesday, 27th January. The orientation covered topics on adjusting to a new culture and culture shock issues, academics, safety and security in Ghana, sexuality and gender, the sexual harassment protocols, race and ethnicity in Ghana, etc.


Prof. Michael Willliams, the former director of CIEE Ghana, speaking to the students on Race and Ethnicity in Ghana.


On Friday, January 29th, the 6 internship students visited their internship sites. They were given an orientation of the place they will be interning at for the semester. Later in the day, they met with their internship supervisor to discuss how to manage their expectations at the internship sites.

On the afternoon of Saturday, January 30th, the participants were introduced to the city of Accra. They were taken on a tour to see the hustle and bustle of the city and some places of interest.
The evening of Saturday was the ‘Akwaaba’ (Welcome) Dinner to officially welcome all the 24 participants aboard the CIEE Ghana train. The night was filled with lots of music and dancing and delicious local dishes.


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There are so many activities lined up for the semester and we will fill you in as and when they happen.



Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah,

Resident Director, CIEE Ghana.





Danette  Frederique (Northwestern University), a CIEE Ghana Fall 2015 Participant.


Cape Coast Castle, built in the 1600s

17th century odors should remain in the 17th century. Unfortunately for me, and to the shame of the rest of the world, on Sunday, October 4th while standing in the captive dungeons of the Cape Coast slave castle, I could smell the musty, moldy, dampness of the caves where thousands of black bodies stood (ate, sweat, urinated, defecated, mourned, plead, gave birth, and died…). I did not know misery and sorrow could have such a distinct scent. Being in those dungeons was an assault to the senses and emotions. The scents, the sound of the dungeon door closing, the maddening silence that ensued, the feelings of unease.


The dungeons where male slaves were kept.

An endless list of emotions could have been felt by a visitor to this dark place, and one’s emotional state, or lack thereof for some, depends on our identities, our personalities, where we come from, our educations and our passions. Whether you can feel the misery of your ancestors, sympathize with the misery of another people's ancestors, or feel nothing at all for misery of an entire population, this experience is a telling one that illustrates the lack of our abilities as members of this Earth to grasp a universal concept of humanity. Humanity didn’t exist when this castle was built. It didn’t exist when Africans were chained and marched to face an unknown fate. Humanity
was nowhere to be found in the male dungeon, female dungeon, punishment cells, the governor’s bedroom, and there was certainly no humanity in the chapel that was built on the territory. The audacity of the Europeans to build a church in a place of such wickedness, I thought. What kind of worship could be practiced here? The audacity of the Ghanaians to play and laugh on the beach and sell fabrics in the rooms of this castle where not too long ago, white people sold their ancestors. The audacity of some of my peers to break the crucial moments of silence with questions that yielded answers that did not solve any problems or ease any pain. These are some of what seemed like thousands of thoughts that traveled through my brain in that moment. Some of these thoughts do not seem rational in retrospect, but rationality is irrelevant in a place like that. The concept of space and who can command it is an interesting one.


Individuals who don’t bear the scars of these atrocities and descendants of those fortunate
enough to escape capture and enslavement may not be able to relate as deeply to the sorrow of
these captive Africans as members of the Diaspora can, but empathy is a powerful thing.
Perhaps it's too late for empathy to show its face in this space, in spaces related to this space,
and in these contexts. 

Hallway to Governor's bedroom

“In Everlasting Memory” said the sign by the entrance down to the male captive dungeon, but to merely keep the memories of this era alive isn’t enough. An unfathomable injustice was done to an entire population, and descendants of this population continue to suffer today. I suppose the stifling odor that lingers today is fitting for these crimes against humanity perpetrated hundreds of years ago. If the detrimental impacts can last this long, so can the smells. There is a lot of cleaning up to do.




This Piece was written by Carys Meyer, a CIEE Ghana Fall 2015 Participant from Emory University.


Carys Meyer (Emory University) in the studio with Maxwell (CIEE U-pal)

They say that during your time abroad it is important to do things that are out of your comfort zone. Well, my first week in Legon I went directly into my comfort zone; that is, the Comfort Zone Relationship Talk Show on Radio Univers 105.7.

Every Sunday night at 9pm, CIEE u-pal Maxwell hosts a relationship talk show on the University of Ghana radio station. Just minutes after I stepped off the plane in Accra, Maxwell was already talking to me about his campus-famous talk show and his passion for radio. In the week that followed, I jokingly asked Maxwell if I could make an appearance on his show; he said, “sure.” Taking my joke a step further, I asked if I could be his co-host; to my surprise, he again answered, “sure.” It was that simple. With no radio experience or notable relationship expertise, I was Comfort Zone’s newest host. On my first show with Maxwell we talked about cheating- how to handle it, if it is ever permissible, the difference between males and females, etc. We had a panelist of CIEE students who answered our questions about their own experiences with cheating and provided opinions on a wide variety of discussion topics. Halfway through the show we generally open up the phone lines for listeners to way in on what they are hearing. Ghanaian callers joined the conversation with American panelists and the result was fascinating! Right away we were all struck by the cultural differences in dating relationships, and especially with regards to cheating. Many of our Ghanaian callers found cheating in a relationship to be almost unavoidable, a viewpoint that shocked our American panelists. Ghanaian callers also restricted cheating to a predominately male behavior, while the CIEE students claimed that cheating was common for females as well. Needless to say, it was quite a heated discussion and rip-roaring way to start off my time on Comfort Zone.

            Since that first show, my radio experience has only gotten more exciting. We have covered a variety of topics and even had guests from local theatre productions. Sunday nights have become a highlight of my time at the University of Ghana. I have also learned more than I ever expected in a field I knew very little about. Being on the radio has taught me a tremendous amount about how to think on my feet and keep conversation going. Maxwell works with very little planning, which can be exciting but also a bit nerve-wracking. There have been times when he has handed me the mic with no warning and it is my job to ask the panelists questions or greet a caller. I am also slowly learning to use radio DJ software and technology. I love observing Maxwell’s every move as he flawlessly flows between music and speaking and phone calls. What seemed at first to be a mess of cords, switchboards, and microphones, now seems manageable to me.

             Through Maxwell and Radio Univers, I have been exposed to new people and a huge community that would have otherwise been unknown to me. The ease of getting involved in such an established organization so quickly amazes me and certainly differs from what I am used to at my home university. I never thought I would come to Ghana to host a relationship talk show, but here I am. I am excited to return home and test my new radio skills at my own university’s radio station. Who knows? By the end of the semester I may be ready to host my own show!



Carys (left) with Stella Mensah (Brown University)





It has been a great three weeks since 18 fabulous students came to Ghana. In our first Newsletter for the Fall 2015 semester, we filled you on the things they were up to. Since then, a lot has gone on that we want to highlight.


Every year, art enthusiasts in Ghana and all over the world gather in Jamestown, Accra to celebrate art. This year's event, themed "African Electronics", was the number trending topic on Twitter over that weekend.


Photo Credit: Bra Perruci

The Fall 2015 students were present at this event.


Photo Credit: Tyler Cochran

 In a student's own words:

"Chale Wote was Amazing! I enjoyed being a part of Ghana's traditional versus modern culture. It was blast of Ghanaian culture through art, dance and music. Definitely a memorable experience!"

                -Aminata Soumare (Emory University) 



Classes started on August 24th, 2015 and the Fall students have been busy with registration and figuring out the educational culture of the University of Ghana. However on August 21st, the CIEE Ghana team in collaboration with Kisseman Childrens' Foundation went to the Evangelical Presbyterian (E.P.) Basic School to advocate for Girl Child education.


Tyler Cochran (Loyola University in Maryland) with some of the pupils of the E.P. School.

The social movement campaign for movie 'Girl Rising' was screened and a discussion around the subject of education with the pupils. The pupils were also able to express their opinions on the subject through art.


Miriam Baku (University of  Illinois, Urbano-Champagne) with some of the E.P. pupils


Chidinma Onyia (Colorado College) with her group and their art work




In this and subsequent Newsletters, we will be featuring students blogs about their journey so far in Ghana.

In this edition, we feature Tyler Cochran's blog on various events; orientation, classes, events in Accra that he has been to. Read Tyler's blog here






It is the start of a brand new semester with eighteen enthusiastic students ready to take on Ghana. A lot has happened since they arrived on August 10th. We would like to fill you in on the highlights of the past one week.


The Fall 2015 students and staff

Orientation 101


The Resident Director talking to the students at orienation

As always, we took the students through orientation throughout the week. Orientation touched on important issues such as health, safety and security, academics, adjusting to the culture, communication, transportation and other related matters.


The students partaking in a Bystander Intervention Training with the RD

The students also attended the International Students orientation which touched on a lot of topics on living and learning at the University and Ghana in general.


The programme doctor, Dr. Anarfi, talks to the students on health

Music and Dance Workshop


Atsu, a former u-pal and teaching assistant the school of performing arts, speaks to the students

Music and dance are an integral part of the Ghanaian culture. Led by Atsu, a former CIEE Ghana upal and now a Teaching Assistant at the School of Performing Arts, the students were led through some rigorous Ghanaian dance called the ‘Gota’.


Left: Jasmine Mack (Wesleyan University) and Carys Meyer (Emory University) doing 'gota' dance


The ‘gota’ dance, which is usually a duet dance, originates from the Volta Region of Ghana. The dance required the students to show off their dancing skills through flexible torso and pelvic movements to the rhythm of the ‘kpanlogo’ drums.

Cultural Event – Twins Festival


The Fall 2015 students and CIEE Staff with our u-pal Brown and his twin sons

As part of our first cultural event planned for the semester, the students were invited to witness our u-pal, Brown's celebration of twins’ festival.

The celebrations is a time when twins within the Ga ethnic group, of which  Brown originates from, are religiously honoured. This festival is celebrated the Friday before the big traditional festival ‘Homowo’. Homowo is a Ga festival celebrated in remembrance of the famine that once happened in pre-colonial Ghana.

Akwaaba Dinner

On Saturday, August 15th, the students were given general glimpse of the city of Accra and also how best to get around. They saw all the places of importance that they can visit and learn more about the people and culture of Ghana.


The Palm wine music ensemble

In the evening of the same day, the students were official welcomed on board the CIEE Ghana train. At the welcome dinner, they were introduced to traditional folklore songs called the Palm wine Music. The students danced the night away!

The students dancing the night away

Classes Start!!!

 All University of Ghana classes commenced on August 17th. With so many course options available at the University, students are still attending classes and figuring out what courses they want to take for the semester.

Looking ahead:

There are so many things planned for the semester. We will keep you updated on what is happening and the students journey as we progress in our next newsletter.







Summer Ghanaian Studies Session I is very well into its final week, with Candace Milner (Georgetown University)  and Chandra Hays (University of Colorado – Boulder) preparing to take their final papers for the History of Ghana course.



This past weekend, Friday June 12th, the summer students headed on a journey for the Intercultural Comparative Experience (ICE) in the capital of Togo, Lomé. 


Candace Milner, Chandra Hays, Evans (U-Pal) and Boatemaa (Program Assistant) at the border between Togo and Ghana.

Throughout the four weeks, the summer students have been taking an intercultural workshop that prepared them for the trip to Togo. The goal for the workshop is to push them out of their comfort zones to ask questions and explore Togo comparative to that of their host culture. They also explored the educational systems of Togo, with help from a local who is also a teacher.


Summer Students with Hamid, a local.

They also explored the aspect of religion in Togo, with a trip to the “Marché des Fétiches » or the Mystique market. This market is the hub for the traditional fetish priests of Togo.


Some of the carcases of animals used to make charms at the Fetish Market.


Horse tails used in traditional Togo dances

They also explored the history of the colonization and independence of Togo by going through the memory lane of the National History Museum of Togo. At the Museum, they learnt about the pre-colonial industry and trade of iron in Togo.


An Furnace for making iron in the pre-colonial industry and Trade in Togo



A photo documenting some slave forts and castles during the colonial era.



As the Summer Session 1 ends, we look forward to hosting Session II in the next few days.





As the curtain finally draws to a close, the spring semester students prepare to say bye, and in some instances already said bye, to the city which has been their home for the past four months. In the final months to the end of the semester were filled with so many activities that enriched the students intercultural experiences that made them to become more self-aware and gain new cultural perspectives and understanding to face the world and make meaningful impacts.


In March, the Spring students forwent the comforts of the city of Accra and went on a tour of the Northern and Ashanti Regions of Ghana.


Spring 2015 students with the Resident Director 


The Ashanti Heritage

The Ashanti Region is the cultural heartbeat of Ghana. The rich history of this region dates as far back as the 1600s. The ‘Land of the Golden Stool’ expresses its rich cultural diversity through food, language, festivals, historical museums and World Heritage Sites, chieftaincy and vast forest vegetation among others.


Spring students at an Ashanti Traditional Home, which is preserved as one of the World Heritage sites



Kokayi Postell (Emory University) checking out the meanings of the ‘Adinkra’ symbols



Brenna Swanson (University of Wisconsin-Madison) wearing her beautiful piece of traditional Asante Kente cloth

‘The Last Safari’


In the Northern Region, the Spring students went on a safari tour of the Mole National Park.



From left: Caleb DeLorme (Washington University in St. Louis) and Benjamin Gorman (DePauw University)




As a part of the Northern Region tour, the students also visited some of the townships, including the town that has the oldest mosque in Ghana.


Spring students with the RD at Larabanga Mosque, the oldest mosque in Ghana.



Day of Service


"Life's most persistent and urgent questions is: ‘What are you doing for others?'" - Martin Luther King.  With this a guiding light, the spring 2015 students gave back to their community by spending a day at the Kisseman Children’s Foundation by helping make the foundation child-friendly.


Antoinette Newton (Colby College) re-arranging the books at the office


Antoinette and Brenna with the RD painting some murals on the walls of the office


 Brenna Swanson (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Antoinette Newton (Colby College) and CIEE Ghana staff donated a bookshelf and stationery, helped to re-arrange the books at the foundation and also painted some murals on the walls of the foundation.


Antoinette Newton and Brenna Swanson, CIEE Ghana Spring 2015 




Final Curtain

The semester was crowned with a farewell dinner which is full of laughter and reminiscing of all the roller coaster rides the students had in Ghana.



Spring 2015 students with the CIEE Ghana staff and u-pals


Spring 2015 Memory Board

It has been a great semester and we say ‘adieus’ to this semester and we look forward to Summer 2015 and  the semesters to follow.



Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah

Resident Director, CIEE Ghana Study Center







CIEE Legon Spring 2015 Update-The Art of Cooking Jollof Rice in Ghana

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Family


The month of February has been really eventful for us and our students as we have had a number of cultural activities such as cooking the famous jollof rice, handwashing of clothes, attending theater performances and going on an excursion to Boti Falls, umbrella rock and seeing the mystery palm tree with three heads. 


Jollof Rice

Program participants for the cooked a typical Ghanaian delicacy, jollof rice and the experience was just incredible-starting from going to the market, getting the kitchen in readiness  at the International Students Hostel (ISH), the cooking itself and the enjoyment of a very well cooked and delicious meal. 

Students were given money to go the market and use their bargaining skills they had acquired from taking Twi Language course to purchase some food items for the cooking.

In the picture is Yu Fukuoka of International Christian University and Antoinette Newton-Acquah of Colby College purchasing some food items at the market



The students and program staff cut the vegetables, washed dishes, seasoned the chicken and cooked the mouth watering jollof rice and enjoyed it.


Benjamin Gorman from DePauw University and Caleb Delorme from Washington University in St. Louis cutting vegetables for the cooking.




 Brenna Swanson from University of Wisconsin-Madison dishing out the mouthwatering Jollof Rice



Knowing how to hand wash your clothes is such an important skill to have in most homes in Ghana and so as part of helping our students gain this important cultural skill, staff organized a handwashing day for all participants (both staying in homestay and on-campus dorms alike). 

Washing picture 2015 Washing picture Yu

6th March 1957-Ghana’s Independence Day

This upcoming weekend is the celebration of Ghana’s Independence Day. This year marks Ghana’s 58 years of independence from British colonialism. As part of the celebration, a play titled The 2nd Coming of Nkrumah was staged at the National Theater of Ghana and one of our own, Brenna, acted as the Queen of England in this stage play.   

  Play2 Play Play1

Brenna described the on-stage performance as "awesome"

Trip to Boti Falls

We also went to Boti to see and enjoy the beautiful nature and scenery of this mountainous and eco-touristic part of Ghana.  Here we hiked, visited the waterfalls, saw the amazing umbrella rock, and the palm tree with three heads and all the history and myths surrounding these important landmarks in Ghana’s tourism industry.  From there we all went to the Aburi wood carving village to witness and learn from the wood carvers how they ply their trade and ways they are ensuring that their trade is eco friendly.


The month has been full of learning and at the same time fun.  We have a lot coming up this month of March as our big trip to the Northern region to Mole National Park and also to the Kumasi in the Ashanti region is coming up.

We will keep you posted.


Kind regards,


Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah //  CIEE

Resident Director


CIEE Study Centers in Ghana

International House, University of Ghana, PMB 31, Legon.


skype kgyasi-g

tel +233-26-462-2251




News from Legon Spring 2015

Dear CIEE Friends and Family

Our Spring 2015 semester is a little over a week old and all participants from Colby, Northwestern, Emory, Washington University in St Louis, UW-Madison, DePauw and International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo are all doing amazing.  Thanks for sending us such wonderful young men and women.  Onsite orientation is over and it was crowned last Friday at our welcome dinner which was held at a place with a live band that plays authentic Ghanaian Highlife Music.  Our students, staff and UPals danced the night away.

Onsite Orientation

Onsite orientation covered health (ebola and malaria), safety, security, academics, culture of Ghana and culture shock, race, sexuality and academics among other such important topics.  We also made them get on public transport (Ghana style) to understand and navigate the local transport system.  We did a scavenger hunt to know important places on University of Ghana campus and the city of Accra.  I can confidently say our students are very well adjusted thus far.


Our students have tried and enjoyed practically every local Ghanaian food we have introduced them to.  The foods range from kelewele, jollof, red-red, waakye, banku and pepper sauce, fufu and peanut soup.  I strongly encourage you to come visit and enjoy the spicy tastes and savours of Ghanaian foods. 

Football (Africa Cup of Nations)

For those who might not be aware the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Soccer tournament was held at Equatorial Guinea.  Ghana and Ivory Coast were the finalists at the tournament.  Ghana lost on penalties.  We and our students watched practically every match involving Ghana during the soccer games.  We chanted and supported Ghana and raised the Red, Gold and Green flag of Ghana very highly just as all the local Ghanaian people were.   By this your students and our students have become honorary citizens of our dear Republic of Ghana.







One of our students, Kokayi Postell from Emory University, who is a year long student is in a commercial that is playing on practically every TV station in the country.  We have a celebrity on-site.  Kokayi is the one in the white lab coat. Click and watch video here:


Classes have started at the University and students are gradually acclimatizing to the teaching styles and and educational philosophy of the University of Ghana.  At the same CIEE courses i.e. Twi language and Intercultural Communication and Leadership course are also off to a great start. 

 Upcoming Events

We have number of CIEE cultural events like cooking, basket-weaving, beads-making, and field trips and excursions to various parts of the country and we will keep you updated and informed.  Spring 2015 is going to be another experientially transforming semester for all program particpants, staff and UPals alike.  Watch this space!!


Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah

Resident Director

CIEE Study Center, International House

PMB 31, University of Ghana Legon.

Skype: kgyasi-g