CHANTAL FOLLINS, a fourth year student from Houston majoring in Corporate Communications and African Diaspora Studies, never imagined that she would leave the US, let alone travel to the African continent. Here, Chantal shares her experience studying in Accra, Ghana, and how the opportunity to live in the culture she was studying deepened her understanding of not only classroom concepts, but of her own personal history as well.
In which program did you participate?
I participated in the summer 2012 Ghana program focused on Social and Economic development.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I heard about it from friends who went previously and kept raving about the program. There was an informational session for the Ghana program, which I attended and then I decided to apply.
Why did you choose this particular program/destination?
I've always wanted to go to Africa, especially Ghana, because it has so much history attached to it. Before I went anywhere else in this world, I wanted to go to Africa to learn about the place of my ancestry.
What challenges, if any, did you face related to studying abroad?
I applied for and received several scholarships, which helped cover the costs I would not have been able to cover otherwise. However, it was challenging to arrange money for the airplane ticket, which I needed to raise in a matter of days, but I was able to by the grace of God. My parents were initially concerned about traveling so far from home, but once I told them I had raised the money and was set on going on this adventure, they realized they couldn't change my mind. I was going to Africa!
What was an average day like?
We woke up, ate an amazing breakfast and got on our bus for another great day in Accra, Ghana. We toured historical parts of Ghana, such as slave castles, museums, Bob Marley's house, W.E.B. Dubois' House, and the beautiful beaches. If we weren't touring the city, we were in a classroom learning about the Pan African movement started by the first Ghanaian president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. It was an incredible experience. Many times we had class outside and were able to physically see what we were being taught.
What was your favorite thing you did on the trip?
My favorite thing we did was the Azonto, which is the equivalent to the Wobble dance here in America. I did that dance with my classmates in the village of Ashanti in front of the queen mother and chief of the village. It was so much fun and an incredible honor to be invited to participate in a traditional Ghanaian ritual. I also loved the ice cream made in Accra called “Fan Ice” it was SO good! It gave Blue Bell a run for its money.
What did you learn that surprised you about the country/culture – and about yourself?
Ghanaians are extremely kind and caring people. Their warmth and spirit exceeded all of my expectations. They value and appreciate their culture so much and are not afraid to share it with visitors.
How has your study abroad experience changed your view of the world?
It showed me that this world is beautiful and there is so much to explore. I didn't believe I would ever leave the county, but now I know that anything is possible.
How has your study abroad experience influenced your future plans?
I have the travel bug and I want to go to so many different places. On my list is Brazil, South Africa, France, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic - and back to Ghana!
What would you say to another student who was considering study abroad but was still uncertain?
You won't regret it for a second. Don't hesitate because you don't think there is enough money to go, because there are many scholarships available through the International Office. Have the courage to apply and have the courage to GO. It will change your life forever and you will have so many amazing memories.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience?
Ghana is a gorgeous country - there are, unfortunately, many misconceptions about Africa in the media. Before you judge Africa, I encourage you to visit and take it all in for yourself. It is a beautiful continent and I can't wait to explore the rest of it.