YES Abroad Ghana: Coming Home
It’s been the better part of year since I left America for Ghana. 66 blog posts and 387 coconuts later, here I am!
I’ve bought my last souvenir, packed my suitcases to the brim, eaten my last fufu.
During the year I’ve thought about giving up and leaving early, missed my brother’s wedding, watched friends move on past their high school days.
Was the experience worth it? Do I really recommend it to others? If I could go back would I do it all again?
Despite all the troubles, I emphatically answer YES to all the above questions.
Being an exchange student for 10 months in a third world country can be rough. The distractions of keeping in touch with everyone from back home and traveling independently are great in the moment, but hurt in the end. Back in months 3-5, I was seriously considering packing my bags and heading home. The only thing that kept me going at that point was my blog.
What made my exchange worth it was the people. The realization that despite poverty, religion and skin color; we are all one people.
What of the chef who instructed me to go to the market and buy ingredients, most of which I’ve never even heard of? She’s my auntie. The wrinkly woman in the market selling bags of purified water for a nickel apiece? She’s my grandmother. And the other YES Abroad students/other AFS participants? They’re my brothers and sisters.
Blogging has been an imperfect window into my life abroad – many experiences simply cannot be articulated online. I don’t think any amount of writing can do justice to the beauty of the squalor that is Malata market. Neither can I explain what it’s like to have brothers all across the world, nor the feeling of comfort when sharing one bowl of soup using only right hands to eat. They are things one must experience for oneself.
People doubted my leaving America to come to Ghana. I doubted my leaving America to come to Ghana. Ghanaians were boggled that I would do such a thing.
It took 10 months, but the whole exchange is finally making sense. While I don’t think I can explain online what I gained from this experience, I will say this: Never forget to be grateful for everything you have.
To New YES students: Your experience has only just begun. Stereotypes thrive on ignorance; we are the 1%. We’ve lived with Muslim families for the better part of a year without hearing about bombs. s. And most of all, we’ve proved that Obruni or Obibini, black or white, Muslim or atheist, we are all human beings.
Let us think of ourselves as human beings; not defined by country lines, religion, or skin color. Superficialities beyond our control don’t define us; we are all human beings; citizens of the world.
I’d like to thank the State Department, everyone involved with YES Abroad, AFS Ghana, and the US Embassy for everything they’ve done. I believe in this scholarship’s mission, and will do everything I can to give back. Another thank you to my two outstanding host families. Finally, thank you to my fellow Americans for their support throughout this year. Drew, Adriana, Balthazar, Bany, Logan, and Kyla – I couldn’t have made it without you.
To Americans, Ghanaians, and YES Abroaders alike– Judge individuals rather than groups. Defy the status quo. If someone says “it’s impossible”, use their doubt as motivation to prove them wrong.
We will change the world.