Dispatches from Ghana: Campus, community and Cape Coast slave castles

Recently, a dozen Penn State undergraduate and graduate students returned from study abroad at the University of Ghana in West Africa, where they were accompanied and instructed by Francis Dodoo, a Penn State research professor with the Population Research Institute and professor of sociology and demography. Three of the students blogged about their experiences while in Ghana. This is the second of three entries.

Campus, community and Cape Coast slave castles
By Danielle Pramick

Studying in a nontraditional country such as Ghana is an adventure. It is an extraordinary country; a place where life is much slower, smiles are brighter, and the laughter is louder. As my adventure comes to an end I still cannot give Ghana the praise it deserves because pictures and stories cannot describe how enjoyable the experience has been.

I remember having swarms of little kids shout "obruni," which means "white/foreigner person" in the local Twi language, at the parade of 10 Penn State students frantically soaking up the new environment. It took some time to get used to life in Africa but once the novelty wore off, you quickly become accustomed to their way of life. After getting used to using bug spray at night, sleeping in a mosquito net, and taking cool showers I have come to see how easy my life could be consumed with silly luxuries and I find myself enjoying life as real as it is.

The first word that comes to mind when I describe the University of Ghana is big. The campus itself is very spread out, which sometimes seems like even farther trekking from my dorm to class in the hot afternoon sun. The second word that comes to mind is beautiful. The streets running through the campus are lined with trees and colored with other tropical plants and flowers.

The buildings on campus are not like most buildings you may find at Penn State; instead, the buildings and residence halls are designed to mimic on a few themes I found throughout Ghanaian society space, symbolism and tradition. For example, a lot of the lecture halls are spacious and airy to accommodate the large class size. The residence halls as well are aesthetically pleasing as any beach resort you could imagine, decorated with fountains, benches and trees. African symbols add to the individualistic beauty of campus as well as all of Ghana.

Outside of campus the opportunities are many and the experiences are greater. This is especially true because the scheduled trips through the program have exposed me to Ghana in ways I would not otherwise have done. I have had the opportunity to meet the King of Ashanti and Queen Mother, participate in African dance performances, walk on the canopy of the rainforest, and tour slave castles.

Cape Coast is one of the most historical places in Ghana. We all learn about the history of trans-Atlantic slave trade through textbooks, but nothing could be more profound than standing in an actual slave dungeon. To be honest, touring the slave castles was one of the most depressing things I have done, and the conditions for the slaves at those times were appalling. Fortunately, the castles' surroundings of the ocean were enough to lift your mood a bit. Besides its famous slave castles, Cape Coast was probably one of my favorite places to visit because it was so beautiful — a colorful coastal town with a touch of colonial style buildings and vibrant people known as Fante. Needless to say, I have embraced the African culture and will miss the everyday color it put into my life.

I have been told that an adventure is part of a human's living spirit — the thrill of life comes from new experiences, encounters with different faces. I have finally conquered my thirst for adventure by coming to an exciting new place rich in culture. I now understand what students mean when they say studying abroad will change your life.

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Dodoo is returning to Ghana with a new group of students in fall 2009; the application deadline is March 1. Those interested in more information about the study-abroad program, which focuses on social science and research and is based at the University of Ghana, should e-mail Rachel Helwig, education abroad adviser, at reh25@psu.edu, or visit the Penn State Education Abroad Web site.

 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010