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4 Things You Need to Know Before Studying Abroad in Ghana

February 21, 2017

1. Expect to sweat

If you are considering studying in Africa, you must prepare for the climate. Upon arrival in Accra, I was engulfed by the stifling humidity as soon as I descended from the plane. Coming from Southwest Louisiana, I thought I was prepared. However, after three weeks of perpetual sweat that three cold showers a day can’t cure, I can definitely say that I am still not accustomed to the heat. It is relieving, though, to hear my Ghanaian friends even complaining about the climate here in Accra.

2. Your new name is ‘obroni’

If you are a foreigner, and a white one at that, expect to hear this word daily. In the markets, on the streets, by your taxi driver – you will be addressed as 'obroni’ in nearly every place that you go. As an 'obroni,’ you will also be charged exorbitantly higher prices for everything from pineapples in the market to taxi fare to artwork in the local shops. I learned early on that when I am charged a price that seems ridiculous I should cut the price in half and then bargain from there. Learning some words in Twi, one of the many native languages in Ghana, helps considerably.

3. Ghanaian time

Strict time schedules hold far less significance in Ghana than they do in America. In Accra, everyone walks, talks and moves at a leisurely place. Nobody ever seems to be stressed or in a rush. For my first week of classes at the University of Ghana, I woke up two hours ahead of time and arrived for my classes a half hour early only to find that my professors didn’t even show up to lectures on time. I often find myself getting impatient when it takes ten minutes to purchase a pineapple from the local market because the women in the stalls are busy having an animated conversation in Twi. Coming from the fast-paced and often stressful time schedules in America, I am at times frustrated with Ghanaian time. However, I am learning to enjoy that everything here takes time. It’s also just too hot to be in a hurry for anything!

4. How to appreciate the extraordinary beauty of Ghanaian culture

The adjustment period to living in a new country is undoubtedly a rollercoaster, but every negative experience holds a lesson – whether it be about the culture of your host country or yourself and the ways in which you react to what the world throws at you. It is only after the initial shocks of cultural adjustment that you can begin to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Ghana. There is a lack of air conditioning, hot water and wifi. Despite that, the local flora and fauna of tropical West Africa, the vibrant colors and patterns of clothing worn by the locals and the pulsing rhythm of Afrobeat music are all facets of life in Accra that I am grateful to experience during my semester abroad.

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