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
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.
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.
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
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!