Taking my course with Dr. Hart and traveling to Ghana gave me the opportunity to experience a culture vastly different from my own as well as look into what it really takes to conduct fieldwork. My experience allowed me to fine-tune and focus my personal interests into a research project that I was passionate about. As a journalism student I simply wanted to learn more about Ghanaian media as well as the relationship between journalism and democracy outside of the U.S. However, I got so much more out of this course than I expected. I was able to meet political journalists who worked in different mediums, speak to the CEO of a newspaper publishing house, interview Ghanaians from all walks of life (from actors and entrepreneurs to former presidents), and gain an understanding of the way Ghanaians experience day-to-day life and participate in various roles within their society. Actually having the opportunity to travel to Ghana made my homework come to life. It is one thing to read about another culture from a book, but another thing to see it in front of your face. This made my research more cogent, relevant, and impassioned. I also witnessed other peers go through a similar journey with their respective disciplines, which reinforced the idea that anyone in any field can look to history and culture to develop research. Taking the time to learn a bit about Ghana’s history with Dr. Hart allowed me to make connections between the past and the present in-person while seeing how the landscape of Ghana in multiple spheres has changed and asking Ghanaians how they themselves understand their story. My trip will stick with me for the entirety of my life, it has changed how I now understand and will proceed to talk about Africa, and as a student researcher, I have thereby become a more conscious observer of the world we live in.
Some things students should know before they go: Remain open-minded and experience everything. It’s completely different from the United States, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be worried/scared. They are in completely capable hands, so you should enjoy yourselves and set out to make positive memories and experience all that you can. I think I spent a lot of time worrying about the unknown, and I think that something I wish I could go back and tell myself is that, in the case of going to Ghana, the unknown isn’t something to be worried about. It’s something to be excited about! There will be instances in which you may be shocked and surprised by things, but you will see things you’ve never seen before. The unfamiliarity of it all was actually wonderful.