It’s weird that this is our last week together in Ghana. As I look back on this experience, it’s trippy to think about what my outlook on life was like before coming here. It seems like forever ago that we were all sitting in Leslie’s house talking about last minute logistical things, performing our Twi skits, and imagining what it’ll be like when the time finally rolls around. I have been to Ghana once before this for a week, so I thought I had somewhat of an idea about what to expect. I was wrong.
From the time we first stepped off the plane to where we our now, I have experienced so much that I will forever be grateful for. I have worked as a reporter for a real news station in Africa, learned my way around the city, tried some scary street meat, had breakfast with the US ambassador, surfed with locals, been to reggae night every Wednesday, gone out dancing with my coworkers, taken countless nighttime tro tro rides and night walks, and made 17 new best friends that I will always be able to relate to because we have all shared this wonderful, crazy experience together.
We have seen each other at our highest and lowest, and we have been able to reflect on our experiences as a team and talk through any circumstance. I hear stories about people who go abroad and live in home stays, and that sounds like a very unique experience in itself, but I would never give this living situation up for any other. Part of the fun is being able to come home after a long day at work and feel comfortable talking about things you thought were weird or funny, have dinner, maybe a few drinks, refresh, rest, and repeat.
Another important aspect of this program is the relationships that we were all able to form with professors. The first few weeks we were fortunate enough to have Leslie (who stayed for the majority of the program), Deb, Tom, Juan Carlos, and Chris with us, and we are so lucky to have experienced a dynamic of being outside of the J school, in a completely different setting. We experienced a new culture together and learned about each other as friends, rather than as students and teachers. I will never forget that.
One thing I will take away from this experience, of the many that I do not have the time to name right now, is a new outlook on the way I view others. I spoke about this in our first group meeting in Elmina, but I want to reiterate it here. I have, at times, found myself guilty of marginalizing beggars on the streets, people yelling at you to buy something from their shop or store, and people who are just seemingly in the way. It’s an easy thing to do, marginalize others, because it’s a way to cope with the poverty and struggles, avoiding instead of acknowledging it. It’s easier to look away from the man with a growth the size of a football on his face, begging for food, or the children who do not know where their next meal will come from, or the manual laborers screaming for potable water, as we drive by in our air conditioned bus. It’s easier because you know there is nothing you can really do to help. Through this trip, I have learned to see everyone as his or her own person, to separate the individual from outward appearances and the struggles they face. Even though I am not able to help everyone, I have learned a lot, both about myself and the way I view others.
One blog post does not begin to accurately show how much each of us has learned about ourselves, each other, our future professions, and Ghana, or how much fun we have had with each other along the way. So, all I can really say is that this has been the most enriching experience I have had, and I will be reflecting on and learning from this time in my life for many years to come.
Leslie, you were right about everything you said.