Every year, students at Ashesi take advantage of the exchange opportunities available to them. For a year, a semester, or over the long break, students enrich their Ashesi experience by studying abroad. Three seniors share their experiences studying in some of Ashesi’s partner institutions over the last academic year.

Valena McEwen ’17, Macalester College
After my first year at Ashesi, I realised I ‘d be doing myself a disservice if I did not, at the very least, try to take advantage of the numerous international opportunities available to students. After chatting with family and peers about this goal, I decided spending a semester abroad was the way to go. Before I set off to study abroad at Macalester College in Spring 2016, there was only one thing on my mind – EXPLORE! I looked forward to exploring another culture, school setting, career interests, and potential hobbies. Besides my general desire to explore, I more specifically wanted to learn how to play a sport, increase my awareness of other cultures and to learn more about environmentalism and sustainability. My mantra was “try it all” and that attitude led to my semester abroad being my best semester so far in college.

Besides attending classes, a typical week involved me going to rugby practice, volunteering with two organisations in the Twin Cities or events on campus and taking Tango lessons. My weekends were usually spent visiting different places like the zoo, museum or art gallery with my host family. They were a rich source of support and help for navigating my way around the new culture and environment by answering all my questions and introducing me to their family. Weekends without my host family meant going to a new restaurant, party or an event in the Twin Cities with my new-found friends from around the world or cooking some Sierra-Leonean dishes with the only other Sierra-Leonean on campus and having friends from other countries over. Before the semester ended, I saw my first Shakespeare play, was a part Hillary Clinton’s campaign team ahead of the Iowa caucus, took a road trip to a neighbouring state and managed to get lost in downtown Minneapolis.

Even though my experience as an international student here at Ashesi had given me a hint about dealing with life away from home, Macalester taught me a lot more. My biggest take away from my time abroad was my reinforced sense of global citizenship. I made friends from other African countries who were determined to make a change in their home countries, and that renewed my perception of myself as a catalyst of change. I was thrilled whenever my Jamaican friend and I found similarities between our cultures. It was fulfilling listening and contributing to discourse on race and racism and the global hierarchy for a change, rather than issues of corruption and bad leadership that dominate conversations I am used to. My Africana class was the most thought-provoking where I questioned assumptions I had, corrected misconceptions others had and understood divergent perspectives about Africa and issues concerning the continent. One of my highlights was carrying the Sierra-Leonean flag during Commencement – it filled me with an unmatched sense of pride.

I went to Macalester with my willingness to explore and learn and I left Macalester more confident, open minded, with a wider network of friends and tons of great memories, which is why I would advise every student to take advantage of this study abroad opportunity.

Aba Wilmot ‘17, Wheaton College
When I applied to the Office of Diversity and International Programs, I stated that I wanted to interact with students and professors of diverse disciplines, take classes of interest outside Ashesi’s curriculum and experience living on my own in another country for the first time. To many, being independent isn’t a new thing, but I had never been away from my mother for more than a month. Thus, studying abroad was both an exciting and a scary adventure for me.
My semester at Wheaton has been the best so far! Before, I thought of myself as an extrovert; with the uncanny ability to freely engage people and making friends easily. However at Wheaton, it took me a while to settle down and make friends. I did not expect to be hit hard by the different culture because I thought I knew what to expect. At the beginning, I was shocked as to how differently people behaved and how little people knew about Ghana. Nonetheless, this did not weigh me down. I had to learn to thrive outside my comfort zone.

I attended almost every campus event, got a campus job with the college police, and engaged vigorously in all my classes. The people were amazing. Everyone was willing to lend a helping hand and that made my stay exciting. One of my highlights was the look on everybody’s face when I told them I was working with the campus police. I made it a point to learn new things too. Now, I play the piano, and I speak more confidently in front of people, thanks to a Public Speaking class I took. I also loved the feeling of waking up in the morning and planning out my week, all by myself, a level of independence I grew to love.

Finding out a passion that I earnestly want to pursue had been a headache until I took this trip. Interacting with people and having time to think about myself led me to discover what I really want to do after school. I was expecting to learn a lot more about other people and cultures, but I ended up learning so much more about myself! For this, I am grateful.

Studying abroad is an awesome opportunity. You will discover yourself, learn about other people as well as other places. However, do not lose yourself in the process. Like Dr. Ansah will tell you in the Leadership 4 class, take note of your values; things you can and cannot compromise on. With that, you will explore and have fun without regrets.

Susan Abraham ’17, College of Wooster
The first day of my exchange program set the tone for the rest of my experiences. I was hit face first by a wind of -21 degrees celsius; coming from the tropics, that was extremely cold for me. I had never felt such a sensation before. In that moment I was faced with two options, either feel misery or embrace the situation, find a warmer place and wait till I adapted to the new weather.

Likewise, throughout my four month stay in the College of Wooster, I had moments where I was exposed to emotions and situations that I never experienced before. I always found solace in a new friend, a new activity or tapped into a new aspect of myself I never knew existed in order to find a warm place to stay until I adapted to the situation.

With the world on my side, literally, since my closest friends came from countries in almost every continent; Nepal, United States of America, Brazil, Ghana and New Zealand, I explored as much as I possibly could. I took courses in Karate and Tennis which I loved even more so knowing that this was the only opportunity I had to take these sports as a course. I learnt a lot about myself within class settings as well. Due to the small class sizes, some as small as 10, I was forced to share my opinions and thoughts about topics we discussed in class - I realised I had a lot to contribute. I am much bolder now and ready to share my ideas and thoughts with my classmates and Professors.

Outside class, Jill, a Director of the Office of International Student Association, described me as being “all over the place”. I attended as many school-held functions as I possibly could. Ranging from speeches from political analysts to Zumba dance exercise sessions. I absolutely enjoyed Theatre and Dance performances and had a wonderful time learning to ice-skate. With all the inter-college sport competitions that I attended, I felt my love for sports rekindled. Regardless of the all the amazing experiences I had, I also had moments where I felt lost and out of place.

I missed the Ghanaian environment, where I could say “Hi!” to everyone and a get response. I am excited I had this experience because it helped me grow up, discover new aspects of myself, as well as better appreciate what I had in Ghana.

Learn more about Ashesi’s international programs and partnerships.