I have been home for well over a month now, and this is the first time I have been afforded time to write about my experiences in Ghana. I finally returned to Eugene at 10:30 p.m. on August 3rd. Unfortunately, I had military obligations starting at 6:00 a.m. on August 4th which required me to report in Salem. To make a long story short, I have been on the go since I returned home, without much time to do anything else. This was not the ideal homecoming, because I feel a huge part of this program is getting home and letting the experience absorb, allowing us to understand exactly what we went through. I was forced to push it all to the back of my mind and focus on the military obligation in front of me. Of course I had many people ask me about what I did, what I saw, and how I felt about my trip in Ghana, but I have not had a clear-cut answer to any of these questions. It’s very challenging to put it into words for me.
The things I remember vividly are vastly different than anything the average person in the US has ever experienced. Trying to explain any of these things is nearly impossible. Because I waited over a month to start processing my thoughts and feelings, a lot of my experiences now feel like a distant memory, almost like a dream. Did I really ride to work every day on a tro tro filled with Ghanaians? How did I handle the long hours and crazy workload my internship put on me? How did I handle the distrust of me from the leadership within my internship? How did I navigate the city of Accra after only a little over a week of being there? These are the questions that constantly go through my mind as I think about my trip. One thing I truly learned is that most people are remarkably adaptable. I watched everybody in the Media in Ghana program grow and learn things at an incredible rate, and still to this day, looking back at how well we did amazes me.
I remember the first day I got to Ghana. I arrived in Accra with three other students, after pulling an all-nighter in Dubai. After getting off the plane, walking through customs, going through the airport, and getting my bags, I was introduced to Accra. The heat and humidity hit my face, and reality set in almost immediately—after the long wait, I was there! Doc helped get the street peddlers away from my bags as he lead us to our van as Leslie and us students started to talk about our plans for the day. The street peddlers seemed crazy at the airport, but as we made our way to the house compound, it became clear how common this was. They would approach the vehicle and try to sell things through the windows. I had never seen anything like it. I’m pretty sure my eyes were wide open the entire route to the compound.
I also remember the route back to the airport on my final day in Ghana. I had tears streaming down my face as I was seeing my last sights of Accra… of Ghana. I felt the changes that happened within me. I watched the street vendors selling their goods. I watched the cars driving erratically down the road. I saw the all too familiar buildings that I viewed every day on my way to work. I knew I would miss it. And I do I miss it.
It’s hard to explain what I walked away with from this trip, but sometimes things don’t need to be explained. I know that I’m a better person for going, and I think the people that I have in my life can see that as well. I have gained friendships with people I never would have met. I have gained the confidence of being able to go anywhere, and know that I can be okay. I have gained understanding in some of the most special and important areas in life that I never even knew existed, and wouldn’t have known about without this opportunity.
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m realizing how much more I need to process and absorb from this trip. It truly was an unfortunate situation to come home and not be provided the time necessary to just let the experience marinate. I may be a late starter on this part of the program, but I’m excited to remember and relive some of the moments from the trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.