YES Abroad: Ghana Finalist
3 weeks ago, I posted information about the YES Abroad process and announced that I was an alternate to spend a year abroad.
Today I am proud to announce that I have been upgraded to be a finalist and have accepted a YES Abroad scholarship to Ghana.
At first I was very disappointed that I was awarded Ghana due to the fact that I had my heart set on learning a language which would help me later on in life. I debated between college and Ghana, talked to Adam Streeter (Ghana YES alumni), and ultimately decided to take a gap year for the following reasons:
• Africa – It intrigues me. Particularly the sense of community found throughout the continent. I currently live in Naples Florida, and know little about community. In fact, at my dad's house I have neither never seen nor talked to my neighbors, despite living in the house for over 3 years. One alumni from Mozambique said that if he saw his neighbor and merely said "Hello," he would be considered rude. In his culture, when seeing an acquaintance it is expected to ask how their family is doing, how their day is, etc. This isn't the best of examples, but stands nonetheless.
• College – Although I got into every college I cared about, I applied for financial aid far too late. I want a second chance for financial aid and to apply for more schools that give merit based aid. I leave for Ghana in September, so I'll be busy this August with applications.
• Relaxation – Spending 10 months in Ghana gives me time to relax. As Adam told me over the phone, high school is all about "achieving, achieving, and achieving." Meanwhile, Ghana will teach me what really matters – life experiences. This is entirely true. Education's success is measured in standardized tests. Whether it's the FCAT, SAT, or AP Exams; the goal of education is to make you pass them. If the school has a 100% pass ratio, the teachers have "done their job." This says nothing about success in the real world. It could be that the child who fails FCAT Reading turns out to be a famous mathematician or one who gets perfect scores doesn't go to college – it means nothing. In Ghana, I hope to get a real education.
• Writing – English is widely spoken in Ghana, so learning Twi (Ghana's main tribal language) will not be my primary goal. My current goal is to either write the first draft of a novel or post in my blog consistently enough that one day it could be turned into a book. Ghana will be a my gap year in-between high school and college, and I fully intend to take advantage of my time off.
All I currently know about my specific Ghanaian program follows:
• Location – Students shall be hosted in either Accra (the capitol) or Kumasi.
• Host Family – Students will live with host families in order to experience a true immersion into Ghanaian culture. Families are selected based on recommendations from members of the local community, and each is carefully screened by staff and volunteers. Many families hold a position of influence within their community, and all are highly regarded by their relatives and neighbors. Hosting communities exist through the presence of a strong volunteer support network, with a local volunteer, or “liaison,” available to each student hosted in the community.
• Cultural Activities – Numerous cultural excursions will be offered to students to give them the opportunity to see the varying geographical and cultural regions of the country. Excursions to northern regions will include trips to Tamale, Dalun, Kumasi and Kintampo. Students will also be offered the chance to explore the southern regions of Ghana outside of Accra with trips to Kakum National Park and the Cape Coast and Emina castles.
• School Life – Students hosted in Ghana will attend public secondary schools that can be either single sex or co-educational. The language of instruction is English. In addition to regular schooling, students will be offered introductory language courses in one regional Ghanaian language upon arrival, and will continue classes with a language instructor for two hours per week for the remainder of the program. To supplement the core educational curriculum, students will be offered a variety of extracurricular activities, including lessons in drumming, traditional dance, batik tie-dye and Kente weaving.
Orientation will be June 28 through July 1st. I will be leaving for Ghana this September and will return in June of 2012.