Quinlyn Mork, who is majoring in political science with a minor in international relations, studied abroad in Ghana with some financial assistance from the International Relations Study Abroad Scholarship.
I figured if I was going to study abroad, I might as well study somewhere far away, in more ways than just distance. I wanted to go to a foreign land where I would be immersed in a culture that was vastly different from my own. Here in Cape Coast, Ghana, I’ve been able to do exactly that. Classes are one of many things that are structured very differently. Although the emphasis lies heavily on memorization, expectations are high, and students are very dedicated to their education. The help offered by my fellow students definitely makes up for whatever understanding is lost as the professors speak quickly in heavily accented English. There is very little diversity at this university, so my light skin screams “foreigner” to the curious Ghanaians. They love to hear about the U.S. and they ask random and oddly specific questions about my “home country” and my way of life there.
I am enjoying the various subjects that I am able to study while I am here, but I’ll admit that most of my learning happens outside of the classroom. As a political science major, I have been especially thrilled with the opportunity to tour the old parliament building in Ghana’s capital, to visit a memorial park for Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana’s independence leader and first president), and to perform a traditional African dance for the first Colombian Ambassador to Ghana. And one of my greatest regrets was leaving a huge cultural celebration during Cape Coast’s annual festival only about ten minutes before the vice president of Ghana came! I was really bummed about missing it, but I still enjoy the fact that he came to Cape Coast!
Though it’s a small country, there seems to be an endless list of “to dos.” The task of visiting and seeing everything that I want to is quickly growing daunting as my time that I have left here is vanishing more quickly than I imagined it would. Each region has an entirely fascinating and cultural history of its own, and there are so many places and sights to see in each of them! I am particularly enjoying being a part of the dance department here. I joined a traditional African dance class, and soon discovered that by doing so, I volunteered myself to participate in the department-wide production that is due to take place in mid-October. The rehearsals are only increasing in frequency and intensity, and I am really enjoying the chance to experience Ghana in this special way. Every dance we learn holds cultural significance, and almost every move we make has some meaning that I have enjoyed discovering.
The internet here in Ghana, similar to the rest of West Africa, is shoddy. I wash my clothes by hand. I have to drink purified water from sachets, and I do my best to appreciate the strange local food dishes. Despite all this, I wouldn’t trade any of it for a study abroad experience anywhere else. Ghana offers an incredibly rich cultural experience that quickly opened my eyes to a world and a people that move, live and function in ways that are totally foreign to me. It really has been a great adventure to try to figure out a country that seems to work according to vague and mysterious unwritten laws that don’t make sense according to what I have come to know.
The greatest part about studying abroad in Ghana is that I am getting the opportunity to re-think, re-confirm and sometimes change many of my views about the world and life in general. Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. Now that I am here, I cannot imagine a scenario where my college career doesn’t include coming to Cape Coast, Ghana.