Jennifer Karlsson, Social Work Programme, University of Ghana, Ghana
My name is Jennifer and I studied my fourth semester at Socionom programmet abroad in Ghana, namely on the University of Ghana. I wanted to study abroad to get a bigger understanding of other cultures and challenge myself to do something outside my comfort zone.
I was incredible nervous before leaving because I didn’t know what to expect. I have been travelled quite a bit in Europe and some in New Zealand before but I never been in Africa. Therefore, it was such comfort that I didn’t go alone but with another classmate. When we arrived in the country, we got picked up by people working at our university. There is a special department that works with helping international students, called International Programmes Office, which was very helpful the first few weeks. They took care of us internationals by having introduction days, helping us with registrations and other bureaucratic matters but also taking us on different trips and teaching us about “do’s and don’ts” in Ghana.
I studied three courses during the semester. Their names are “Victimology”, “Working with individuals” and “Working with older people”. I had one class in each subject every week who was compulsory and then we could choose if we wanted to go to tutorials. Tutorials was held by an older student and was mainly just discussing the topics the lesson had been about. One thing I reacted on first was how big the classes were compared to mine back at home. I think all my courses had about 100 students. How they grade us is also different. During the weeks of teaching, the professor decides a date to an internal assessment which is 30% of your grade. How they decide to test you are different, in one course we had a test, in the second one we had oral presentations and in the last one we did an essay. The end of the semester contains final exams who counts as the remaining 70% of your grade. School could be challenging due to lack of structure but it was also a good way of getting to know some of my Ghanaian classmates.
Most students at the University studies around 6 courses in one semester. The reason to why I only studied three are because I also did practical work. The organisation I did my practical work on are called Play and Learn Foundation (PAL). PAL tries to provide opportunities for children in underserved communities around the school area by engaging them in academic support and sport training. One of the programmes that offer academic support that I was a part of is called Mobile Library. We meet with the children once a week and read with them to improve their English. I believe its very important that the children pass in school since it will give them more opportunities in the future. But PAL is also about just letting children be children and give them the chance to just play and enjoy themselves. For example, I was also a football coach for the girl’s team. Doing my “praktik” (practical work) in PAL was the best part of my semester abroad. I learned so much about how to work with children and in an organisation. The founder of the organisation inspired me so much with his incredible big heart and dedication in these kids.
The experience of studying abroad for a semester has overall been a great learning experience. But to adapt to a completely new culture and way of living has been hard some days. The biggest challenge for me has been standing out from crowds in such an obvious way. People are staring at you and sometimes laugh at how you speak/dress/look since its not the norm here. But at the same time, I feel like it gives me more insight on how people who break the norm in Sweden can feel too. And I feel like that’s a strength later when I will work as a social worker.
There are so many cultural differences between Ghana and Sweden and I can’t write about all of them. But one of the things I really appreciate of Ghanaian culture is their strong solidarity in their communities. They support and help each other. Everyone can be one’s “uncle” or “auntie” since family doesn’t end with blood. I feel like we Swedes have a lot to learn from that. Another aspect I truly appreciate is the lack of stress over small things here. People live more for the moment and its not the end of the world if something doesn’t go as planned.
I feel like I have been writing waaay to much, haha! So I will end it here, but if you have any questions you can always just send me an e-mail on “email@example.com”. And if you do have the opportunity to study abroad, I think you should take it!