A trip to Ghana features philanthropic work alongside seminars

The university has added Ghana to its ever-growing list of study abroad destinations.

Komla Aggor, director of the Ghana Summer Study Abroad Program, said that even though students may be hesitant to go to Africa instead of popular European destinations, Africa will be a refreshing experience because it is a lesser known continent.

“There are many students that are really familiar with European countries, but this is a new ground we are breaking, a new ground now for students to diversify their knowledge and find out the facts (about Ghana),” Aggor said.

Darren Middleton, assistant director of the program and assistant professor of religion, said the trip will give students insight into humankind’s heritage.

“I hope they will come to realize that while Africa is far, far away, in some ways all of civilization wears a bit of Africa, or a portion of Africa, on her face,” Middleton said.

Students will participate in seminars, a regional tour and a service learning project while in Ghana. Seminar lecture topics will include the role of religion in West African life, wildlife and biodiversity in West Africa and the changing social structure of Ghana. Aggor said students will visit an orphanage in a small town, where he hopes students will do philanthropy work that transforms their lives. The program will fulfill three hours in either the cultural awareness or the global awareness core credit, according to the program’s Web site, and students will have to submit a journal and a final paper reflecting on their experience in Africa.

The trip is scheduled from May 12 until May 30. The cost is about $2,450, not including tuition, immunization fees and a visa. Aggor said the Office of Financial Aid offers both merit and non-merit based scholarships for students.

Seven students are already enrolled in the program with their deposits paid, and 10 more have gone through the application process, Aggor said. The program requires 10 people to go, but Aggor said he is confident that the trip will happen because the applicants have already gone through the lengthy process.

This will be Aggor’s third study abroad trip to his native Ghana; he took two trips while teaching at John Carroll University in Ohio. He said international education is key for university students these days.

“It’s just wonderful, taking American students to my own country, which, in many respects, is different culturally from this one,” Aggor said. “For TCU … global experience is part of our focus; I felt that this worked right into what we do.”

Middleton said he decided to join the trip because his research had taken him to Ghana as a scholar, and he has done some ethnographic work on the religious communities there.

“One of the things that I think most folks will be struck by, once they visit a place like Ghana, is that religion permeates all of Ghanaian life,” Middleton said.

Middleton said that while people in the Western Hemisphere often make a distinction between the religious life and the secular life, that is not the case in the country of Ghana. All of life is religious there, and he said he wants students to see that religion and state can work together.

Aggor said the program is meant to expose students to the cultural aspects of Ghana. He said he hopes students come back and realize there may be more that unites the United States and Ghana than separates them.

Middleton agreed that students will truly immerse themselves in Ghanian culture.

“Students come back and somehow are better people for the future, particularly in contemporary America, where we talk a lot about reaching out to others,” Aggor said.

Erica Lawrence, a junior economics and math major, said she plans to take part in the Ghana study abroad trip this summer because of a desire to revisit the continent. She said she visited Morocco two semesters ago and wanted to go back to Africa.

“There are so many things in Ghana that I wanted to see,” Lawrence said.





Ghana

Relatively prosperous compared to some of its neighbors, Ghana is often labeled “Africa for beginners.”

Capital: Accra

Area: 238, 537 sq km

Population: 21 million

Climate: Tropical

Language: English, Twi, Ga and Ewe

Source: Lonely Planet





TCU Spring Study Abroad Fair

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today

Where: Brown-Lupton University Union, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Scharbauer Hall and Smith Hall