I generally try to avoid cliches in my writing, yet here I am, writing about how study abroad changed me. I wouldn’t have it any other way – I didn’t decide to intern in Ghana in the hopes that I’d be comfortable enough not to have to adapt. Reflecting now, I’m somewhat surprised how much these past few weeks have taught me, both professionally and personally.
Things don’t always go smoothly in any profession or environment, but I feel my time in Ghana has been something of a professional crucible. My experience as a journalist thus far in the U.S. has either been as a student, which gives me a certain degree of access with most local stories, or as a music journalist, which is just as much a service to the subjects as it is the public. In either cases, stories aren’t too difficult to pursue. At Net2TV, I haven’t had those privileges. Ghana’s national language is English, but most spoken sentences are in pidgin form of English and a pre-colonial language called Twi. At times, this language barrier made scheduling difficult, because, for a non-Twi speaker like me, speaking on the phone was nigh on impossible. Compounded with a confusing transportation system and tight deadlines, communication difficulties almost dealt a deathblow to multiple stories.
The biggest professional growth I had in Ghana came from my interactions with another group of Americans. Students participating in a study away program from the University of Oregon, Southern University and Xavier University were largely hostile to my presence documenting their study of the African Diaspora. To overcome this, I tried to earn credibility and trust by repeatedly being present, rather than getting my story and running. Ultimately, it won’t be the best story I ever prepare, but I learned a valuable lesson about dealing with difficult subjects.
There were experiences outside of work that make me wonder at my past few weeks. Just two weeks ago, I was surrendering myself to nature under the highest waterfall in Western Africa, Wli Falls. In the torrent, one gets the impression they could be washed away in a moment – a very humbling feeling. More impact than any other single moment on this trip, was the sickening experience of walking through slave castles and learning about the atrocities of the European colonizers in the very rooms where their crimes took place. At a time when there are people in cages in my own country, my time in the forts forced me to recommit to the cause of justice and freedom worldwide as a political activist.
Now, only five weeks after leaving the U.S., I’m more determined than ever to travel as extensively as possible in the future. While previously I saw travel as a leisure activity, I now understand it to be far more educational. I’ve also decided to expand my search for employment when the time comes to include every corner of the earth – If I can make it work here, why not everywhere?