Category Archives: Career + Education

The Types of People that Study Abroad in Ghana

dj bart plange block

When I studied abroad in Ghana, I met a myriad of people from different backgrounds and experiences. We all saw the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Most of the people I befriended were some of the coolest people I’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.  As a study abroad student, you’ll meet people you can learn from, laugh with, give the extreme side-eye to, and form incredible friendships with.  No matter where you study abroad, you’ll always meet some unforgettable characters.  Here are just a few types of people you’ll inevitably run into. Now if you go to Ghana, here are some you’ll be sure not to miss.

The “No New Friends” Student


So you took the first step and you actually came to an African country, but are too afraid of the people to make any friends for the entirety of the semester.  Identifiable from afar as either a sea of lost-looking white people or those that would otherwise blend in if not for the perpetually confused look on their faces.  This one is categorized in the plural form simply because you only see them walking around in international student hordes, on the lookout for muggers or whatever dangerous type of person they were warned about by their friends before coming.  Going out to a bar or to the club- simply out of the question.  Didn’t you hear that those taxi drivers can kidnap you???

The Gold Digger


You’re the type of person that didn’t come to Ghana to simply study.  Or to learn.  Or to pay for things.  What’s the point of going abroad without living your life like it’s golden?  Like literally golden.  I mean like you gotta go out to the club dressed to the nines and find yourself a sponsor kind of golden.  You’re the type of girl or guy that can be found droppin’ it like it’s hot in a Ghanaian music video, discovered randomly one day six months after the trip. You’ll be approached by suitors left and right and never leave the hostel with a hair out of place.  The only money you decide to spend are for taxis to go see your boo when they can’t pick you up, because you know all of your food and drinks will be paid for.  You’re in your element and you’re on the prowl.  Throughout the semester your clothes will look increasingly more expensive, and people always see you leaving campus in an unidentifiable Mercedes.  No one has any idea how you found all these people or all of these new things.  You don’t play, you came to get chose.  Or better yet, you came to choose.

The “Where are all the lions?” Traveller


The majority of your knowledge of Ghana (or I should probably say just Africa because you probs didn’t know that Ghana was a thing until like, yesterday) comes from National Geographic or some article you read about the Invisible Children that inspired you to “Brave it” and come to Africa.  You didn’t really come here to study much, because let’s face it, how hard could the classes actually be?  Upon landing, you were surprised and disappointed by the lack of exotic animals walking about, and pretty much just wanted to go home when you found out you were not in fact going to get to ride on a lion.  You settle for taking pictures of the random chickens or goats you occasionally see on the road to put in your Safari Facebook album.  Club clothes or cute outfits?  Nah, your suitcase consists of cargo pants, fanny packs, loose tank tops, and skirts, because there couldn’t possibly be a nightlife in Africa of all places…  Right?

The “BACK TO AFRICA” Enthusiast

dancing Africa

HELLO MOTHERLAND!  You’re finally back home!  This is the kente-covered, Kwanzaa-celebrating, braid-wearing, Marcus Garvey back-to-Africa-reading kind of study abroad Africa enthusiast.  It really didn’t matter where you studied abroad, as long as it was on your mother continent.  You’ll learn as much Twi as you can fill your head with, and trade all of your American clothes for as many Ghanaian clothes you can fill your suitcase with.  You already know all of the hottest hiplife artists, so you’re singing right along with all the other Ghanaians whenever you go out.  You feel like you’re finally home the moment that you step off the plane, and anytime someone dares to call you an “oburoni,” you make sure to learn them something about how your great-great-grandfather was from  “insert random African country here.”  You’ll eat all the food, meet all the people, and go to all the places.  Of course, you’ll make sure to surround yourself with as many Ghanaian friends as you can find.  The post-abroad depression will last for months after the trip, and every time you play your Ghanaian jams on your iPod after that you’ll be counting down the days until you return to your true home.

The Savior Complex


You’re not afraid of Africa.  Not afraid at all.  You’ve been sponsoring one of those poor kids you see on the TV since the 5th grade.  In fact, you came to leave your mark, change the world, absorb the culture.  You’re the type of person that was def. singing Beyoncé’s “I Was Here,” trying to pump yourself up for all of the illiterate people you’ll get to teach to read, or the cute little orphans you can take some photos with to get a new Facebook profile picture (b/c you know it’ll get at least like, 100 likes).  You’ll shake your head when other students say something ignorant and think to yourself about how glad you are that you’re “down” with the people.  The moment anything you don’t understand offends you, you don’t get too upset because after all, they just don’t understand.  You didn’t come to this country to simply observe or learn the culture, you’re privileged enough to think you came to teach these people something.  You’ll raise your hand and correct the professor with your clearly superior American way of thinking, ignoring the fact that you’re in a completely different country with its own culture and belief systems.  That’s no matter to you though, you’re doing the right thing.  KONY 2012.

The Adventurer


Let’s go skydiving.  No, bungee jumping.  No no, wait, let’s hike up this trail and go cliff diving.  The beach, the zoo, the market, the museum, anything that you can see has to be seen, and everything you can do must be done.  You’re the type of person that didn’t come here to just sit around, you’re ready for adventure.  On-the-go 24/7, the adventurer is ready for every experience their body can possibly handle.  Food?  Bring on the spices, you’ll eat anything offered to you.  You didn’t drop $1500 for a plane ticket to not experience everything you can while can, right?  You’ll go on vacation after vacation, travel to the North, the West, to Togo, to Benin, Nigeria, any place you can get your hands on.  You’re the master of the Tro-Tro and learn Twi or Fante with rapid speed.  No one has ever seen anyone bargain so well like they’ve lived here all their life either.  You are the type of person that will probably come home with a stomach parasite or a worm in their eye from eating the most random street food they can find, but you’ll have the best stories anyone has ever heard.

The Wanderer


You’re the type of person that simply confuses everyone.  It’s been a week and you’ve already made 30 different Ghanaian friend in the most random places.  You’ll leave the room for 5 minutes to buy a bottle of water and come back 3 days later, talking about how you wandered into a group of street musicians and decided to go on a 3 day trip to Togo with them as the tambourine player.  Your whole life just seems like a series of random events that no one can follow.

The Walking Stereotype

why are you white

You’re pretty much the embodiment of every single negative American stereotype that ever existed.  You’ll probably lose 15lbs while you’re here because God forbid you actually try to eat any of the food (you didn’t come here to get typhoid, amiright?!)  Identifiable by the loud and slow voice you’ll use to talk to the locals to make sure they can understand you, and by the extra malaria pills you’ll be popping.  As you walk by, everyone around is immediately hit by a whiff of the strongest insect repellent on the market.  Maybe you’ll make comments like, “Wow, I can’t believe there’s actually Wifi here!!” or “At first when I saw the study abroad program listing, I was so surprised that there was a university in Ghana!!”  You’re no stranger to getting the side-eye, and you’re always ever so surprised when one of your racist comments is not received well by others.  But you’re not racist, you have an African friend.  Or just a black friend.  You know, one that used to clean your house.


No matter who you meet and where you go if you ever choose to study abroad in Ghana, it will be an experience you never forget. Whether you fit into one of these traveller stereotypes or none of them at all, you’re in for the trip of a lifetime. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride!


Let’s Stop Criticizing Education Majors

shelby westfall block

If you’re an education major, you’ve probably taken a fair amount of criticism and doubt about your choices. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there who think that teaching is an admirable, noble profession. In fact, I would imagine that the majority of people feel this way. So why do future teachers face such a hard time?


Okay, let’s go over some of the commonly uttered phrases.

“Do you just want summers off?”  Go ahead and ask a teacher if they really get summers off.  Teachers, though they do certainly have opportunity for a nice vacation, do have obligations during the summer.  Though I would absolutely love to teach nine months and spend the other three on a beach somewhere with a nice book and an iced tea, that isn’t how the cookie crumbles.  There is an enormous amount of planning that goes into any lesson.  A lot of that typically gets done in the summer.  Lesson plans don’t just come to teachers in visions before class.

raven vision

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”  Thanks Woody Allen, but no.  If you think that people decide to teach art or music because they can’t make it as an artist or musician, you are sadly mistaken.  In my experience, people don’t usually pick education as a fallback career.  Teachers teach because they like teaching, not because they flunked out of grad school.  Can we just take a moment and think about what the world would be like if Woody Allen was right?

kristen wiig snl

“You better marry rich.”  Wait– you mean that teachers don’t make six-figure salaries?  Well, that changes everything.  Unless you aspire to a $35,000 salary, you aren’t going into education for the money.  It’s not a secret that teachers in the United States are grossly underpaid.  Also, I don’t appreciate your 1950’s ideology.  But thank you for the advice.  I mean it.

sarcastic emma stone

Here’s the moral of the story, folks.  People decide to teach because they want to make a difference.  Teachers provide a necessary and difficult service to the community.  They shape young minds.  They share their passion for learning with a bunch of kids who would rather be doing literally anything else.  When someone says to you, “Oh, I’m going to be a teacher,” you should follow a rule that I know you’ve heard before: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

new girl


5 Reasons Why Being An Automobile Factory Worker Rocks

frank hampton block

45 vans an hour, 8 hours a day, 360 vans every shift. That’s 360 times you have to tighten the same nut, clip on the same part, et cetera. Sounds pretty monotonous, right?  Technically, you’re right, but there’s so much more than the labor. The people around you who become family and the pride you take into your job provides me with something I feel is uncommon in most workplaces.

1.  The Co-Workers

With other jobs I’ve had,  I’ve never been a very sentimental guy when it comes to my co-workers, outside of a select few people.  However, after 3 months of spending 9 hours a day with the same 6 people, I’ve learned so much about them: how they came to be at the plant, stories about their spouse and kids, and things we agree on and disagree with (as well as which topics to avoid).  The biggest difference (and best part) between this job and past jobs I’ve had is that I’ll get to watch their lives unfold over the years, and that is awesome.


2.  It’s a Thinking Man’s Job

When you’re not in a position to talk to your co-workers, you only have your thoughts to entertain you.  Outside of listening to music, this job offers hours of time to self-reflect, plan your day/weekends, and even learn! Audio-books make wonderful companions on the line; my favorites have been A Song and Ice and Fire series and books about Tibetan Buddhism.


spongebob music3.  Job Security

The automobile industry is incredibly stable.  In 2008 the government bailed out GM, Chrysler, and Ford in order to keep it running.  In most cases, your job security as an assembly worker is in your hands. The Union helps make sure that you aren’t wrongfully fired, so unless there’s a legitimate reason, your job is one of the most secure.


4.  Leave Your Work at Work

Every day, I come home and usually see my roommate hard at work after-hours either in meetings or trying to get more done than he could at work.  Nothing makes me happier than knowing that as soon as I walk out after a shift, I don’t have to worry about anything work-related. The only way I could see myself worrying about work at home is if they built the line through my living room, which I’m confident in that not happening.

Chewy5.  Company Pride

I feel that it’s uncommon for employees to see what their hard work has accomplished outside of the workplace; now, every time I see a vehicle that we build, I get a swell of pride knowing that my co-workers and I built that. Obviously I don’t build every single vehicle, but it feels pretty great to see the fruits of your labor out in the real world.

anchorman yay
All in all, while I first had my reservations about working in a factory, I’ve come to find that it’s an amazing environment surrounded by some of the most diverse work-forces in the country.  While not necessarily my dream job, I’ve found that I am very content with making my living, and look forward to the years to come.


Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Career in the Culinary Field

janine hanover block

I started culinary school two and half years ago, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that people truly don’t know what it’s like to be a chef. Friends, family, and complete strangers talk to me as though it’s something glamorous, asking me who my favorite chef is on The Food Network.  The answer is none of them; I don’t watch it.  Some show a variation of the reality but it’s almost always over the top, and the people they bring on usually just want attention.  It’s fake. Then I get questions from people who think they want to become a chef, and you can tell right away that they have no idea what they’re talking about.  They believe in the televised reality, and it’s not as pretty as you think.  It’s more like blood, sweat, lots of crying, and the occasional thought of wanting to stab your co worker with a knife. If you want to start your career in the culinary industry, these are my top things you need to know.

  1. It’s Physically Painful

Not only can being a chef be back-breaking work but you hurt yourself. A lot. Probably almost every day, and especially in the beginning.  You’re clumsy with the knife or equipment at first, but even after you’ve mastered the knife there is always a chance of injuring yourself.  (Trust me. I’ve cut and burned myself more times than I can count.)  Cuts and burns are standard occurrences, but there is also pain you won’t physically see.  At the end of the day your feet may hurt from standing at your station for an entire shift, your back could ache from hunching over your cutting board, and your arms or shoulders could feel tight from lifting all day.  If you can’t tolerate pain or body aches, move right along!  This career path is not for you.

  1. You Need to Take Care of Your Body

As a chef you can’t sit around eating junk or wasting your days on the couch. I did that for awhile, and I saw areas of my body expand that I didn’t want to see expand.  As a chef, it’s a must to taste everything you make in order to ensure the quality of the product, and sometimes what you’re tasting is unhealthy.  In theory, eating all the time sounds awesome, but it’s not awesome for your health.  Chefs can easily put on extra pounds just from trying items at work.  (That doesn’t include pastries, which is why I joined a gym.)  Once I started going to the gym at least four times a week for an hour,  I lost all the weight I gained from entering a professional kitchen. It’s also a good idea to eat healthy meals outside of work.  Your body will thank you!  Taking care of the inside of your body is important but show the outside love too.  Moisturize and exfoliate everything, especially the feet. Your hands are your tools, and your feet need nourishment after that 12 hour shift you just worked.

  1. Never Work For an Abusive Chef

DON’T DO IT! A chef that commands a kitchen by yelling and being physical with his staff doesn’t deserve your respect or your time. You’ve seen it on TV,  I know you have, but don’t believe you have to put up with it. A chef who controls a kitchen with a firm hand, speaks to you like an adult, and helps you learn and grow (not just professionally, but personally) is a chef you want to work for. I’ve heard one too many horror stories from other apprentices about how some chefs treat their staff. A friend from culinary school told me a widely successful chef in Kansas City likes to throw sauté pans at cooks, and sometimes his aim is true. One day the chef ended up hitting someone in the face, and the employee still works there! It’s typically the “old school” chefs that do it, but I’ve seen plenty of fresh faces just out of culinary school who conduct themselves in such a way. I’m fortunate enough to work for an Executive Chef who treats me and the rest of my coworkers with respect.  Even at his angriest he steps away to calm himself down before coming back.  He knows not to react abusively.  All chefs should behave like this. Period.


  1. Face Your Fears

My first day on the job terrified me in a way that I know it terrifies a lot of new apprentices. Even though I was amped up, I didn’t know anyone or anything about the industry. Just know that it’s okay to feel this way, and face your emotions head on.  You’re going to mess up, and your chef should know and understand.  If he or she cares about your education, they will help you through this journey to become the next leader in the culinary industry.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  If you don’t know how to do something, so what?  Isn’t that why you’re there?  I started out two years ago knowing almost nothing, and now I can look back and take pride in what I’ve accomplished.  Know that you can and should feel that too.


  1.  Have Fun

They say that if you love what you do,then you’ll never work a day in your life. Nothing is more true.  Love what you do, and love who you do it with.  Enjoy every moment, even when it’s hard.  At times you’re going to want to quit; just keep your head up and push through it.  In the end, it’s all worth it.



The Five Stages of Studying Abroad

dj bart plange block

Stage One: Denial

So you’re all set to study abroad but you’re not allowing yourself to feel the reality yet. You’re leaving in two days but you haven’t really packed anything, haven’t said goodbye to the friends you won’t get to see for a semester, and you’ve been living life just like you would on any regular day. Not everyone goes through the denial stage right before leaving; some are super gung ho and go out to buy as many travel books as humanly possible.  Sometimes you’re still in denial the moment you step off the plane. At some point though, you’ll be in complete disbelief that you’re leaving home and spending so many months in a completely different country with brand new  surroundings and culture. It’s overwhelming, and you just can’t believe that it’s finally happening.

No Idea

Stage Two: Euphoria

Everything is amazing. The food is amazing, the trees. The music is amazing, and the people are too This is the best time you’ve ever had in your life. You’re hungry for adventure, for every new experience at your hands. You’re independent, your family isn’t around, and you’re thrown into a brand new culture. You don’t ever want to return to the United States, here is where you belong. You want to go on every hike, visit every bar, go to every restaurant, and meet every new person you can, because this is a once in a lifetime experience and you’ll never get the chance to live so freely again. It’ll seem surreal that you’re here, and you’ll feel invincible, like nothing can touch you now that you’ve seen a little bit more of this giant world.

Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange
Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange

Stage Three: Panic

Something inevitably happens to you that brings you down to earth. Maybe someone stole your computer from your room when you left for a minute to go to the bathroom, maybe you purchased a 5 cedi souvenir for 50 because someone at the market decided to take advantage of your foreign status and cheat you, maybe the new friends you met and decided to go out partying with aren’t really the type of friends you should have been making, maybe you just realized you gained 10 pounds from all the food you’ve been stuffing your face with, maybe you got mugged in broad daylight, maybe you forgot that you actually have to study, that you go to school, right in the middle of your first midterm. No matter what it is, the panic sets in. You realize that you’re alone. Your parents aren’t here to pick up the pieces, and you’re truly independent while you’re here and have to take care of yourself. It can be terrifying, but everyone has that wake up call: the call that reminds you that you are not in fact invincible, that you are fallible and vulnerable in the new country that you’re in.

Panic Attack

Stage Four: Anger

You are past the halfway point of your study abroad adventure and you’re kicking yourself. There’s limited weekends left and you’re not ready to go. You haven’t done enough. There are so many restaurants and bars to visit, but all this time you’ve been going to the same one every Friday. There’s too many people you haven’t met, too many times you skipped a trip to sleep in a little, and now you feel like you haven’t seen enough of the country that you’re in, or many the countries that surround it. Too many foods you haven’t eaten, too many risks you haven’t taken, too many opportunities to take your experience to the fullest that you haven’t taken. You’re angry because you’re realizing that your time here is going to come to a close, and that close is sooner rather than later. You don’t want to leave the new friends you’ve made, some you might not ever get to see again, even though many of them feel like family. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything you want to do. No matter how much you’ve done with your time, there’s still so much more to do.


Stage Five: Acceptance

It’s time to go. You have grown so much in such a short span of time. You know you have more growing to do but accept that the adventure has to end sometime. You’ll hug and kiss your friends goodbye, promise them you’ll Skype them the minute you get home, and that you’ll never forget them, and you’ll  visit them soon. Some of the promises are empty, and some you’ll keep, but you’ll never forget the experience you shared with these people, and they’re bonded to you in a way that no other group of people will ever be. You’ll look back fondly on all the inside jokes you shared that your friends back home won’t quite understand, and shed a tear when you think about the best memories you had during your trip. You’ll think about the semester-long adventure that you had every time you wear a certain pair of shoes or  article of clothing, or look at all the crazy pictures you took. For a while you’ll spend every moment of your waking hours wishing you could go back and spend a little more time in the country you grew to love as your own, but after a while you’ll feel the pang less. You’ll get used to the time difference again, get used to the food you forgot how to eat, and the bedroom that feels so foreign to you now. You’re gone, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to come back again, but for now, it’s back to reality, and you accept the fact begrudgingly. You’re home again, and a new chapter in your book of life is about to begin.

Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange
Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange