After being abroad for several weeks, I noticed myself developing a routine of coming straight to my room once I was done sitting through multiple hours of classes. However, I quickly realized that was not allowing me to experience anything spectacular, which defeats the purpose of studying abroad in Ghana.
I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone. Yes, coming to any country in the motherland as a 20-something young Black woman definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I want more than that.
I decided to set some goals for myself. I wanted to try something new every day for one week and if I succeeded, I would treat myself and go get my nails done. Sometimes bribing yourself is the best way to accomplish stuff. Plus if you’re not trying new things, you’re really not getting the full study abroad experience, but sometimes you need a little extra motivation.
Here’s how my week went:
This was the day I was working up the courage to do new things. I started small – just sitting downstairs at the community table and talking to some of the other study abroad students. It was nice to hear how their trip was going so far.
I’m not a breakfast person but Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I have a 7:30 a.m. class so my appetite is different. There is a little spot outside of my dorm that sells bofrot (a small dough ball similar to hushpuppies) so I bought some to try and they were warm and delicious!
After my traditional dance class later that evening, I went to a little vegan place in the night market behind the dorms and bought “spaghetti with tomato sauce” and some lemon juice. This is different than my usual routine because usually I just come straight back to my room and order delivery. However, ordering this food with my friend Megan allowed us time to have some time to talk!
I went to the dance recital “When Women Move” put on by a women’s group from the School of Performance Arts at a school named “SheMotion” and a guest performer named Sikota from Togo. It was AMAZING. They really broadcasted the importance of women lifting each other up as well as embracing natural beauty. I have always been exposed to forms of art, having done a little theatre, band for a while, then singing in the choir and at church, so I definitely have an appreciation for it. However, interpreting meaning from bodily movements rather than sound and speech was difficult for me at first. I have definitely gained a larger appreciation for being here where every movement is intentional.
After the performance was over, a group of us were talking about what we thought of it, and the conversation shifted naturally as they do. I was telling my friend Kaz about the goals I’d set for myself this week. He asked if I had anything planned for Thursday, and I told him not yet. Then, he offered to come with me to ride the Tro tro and go to a coffee shop! The Tro tro is a form of public transportation that is much cheaper than an Uber or a Taxi. I was very grateful for Kaz because I wanted to try taking the Tro tro again, but I was afraid to do so by myself. Another part of studying in Ghana and embracing the experience is doing things as the opportunities present themselves.
Thursdays are my longest days because I have four classes – three in the morning and one later at night. This particular morning, I went back to the little stand outside of ISH (International Student Hostle) to get bofrot before my 7:30 a.m. class. I have two classes that are back to back in the International Programmes Office (IPO) building, but then I have an hour and a half between my second and third classes. Instead of going back to ISH to waste time, I decided to stay in IPO and do homework for some of my other classes.
Once I finished my final early afternoon class, I met up with Kaz to take the Tro tro to a coffee shop named Zara near the airport (about 15 minutes from campus) since I had about 5 hours before my next class. I got a fruit punch smoothie and a chicken club sandwich.
After we came back from the coffee shop, I bought some shoes from a vendor on the side of the street! After we got back, I laid down for a little bit before dance class, then went on to have an intense workout.
So far in dance, we have learned two dances, and in the second one there is a solo portion where a small group performs. When Emilie, Megan and I went, they both did cartwheels and everyone knows I don’t have a lick of upper body strength. I did a fake cartwheel and the class cheered! Doing that made me feel very vulnerable because I don’t tend to put myself in the spotlight. However, after putting myself out there, I found myself feeling more comfortable.
March 6th is actually Independence Day in Ghana! This year they celebrated 63 years of being an independently ruled country. I was really looking forward to going to the Independence Day parade which has traditionally been held in the city of Accra where I am staying. However, I found out at the last minute that it was taking place in Kumasi, which is about four and a half hours from Accra. Instead, a few friends and I went shopping at the small market outside of the Accra Mall. I bought some souvenirs for my family as well as a few things for myself!
Today, my friends and I brought some more friends to that small market so they could buy some souvenirs too. After leaving there, we went into the mall and did some more shopping and grabbed lunch in Vida E Caffe, a nice spot that reminds me a lot of Panera! I got a turkey club and some lemon iced tea. I was so satisfied when I got it because it reminded me of the Good Old Southern Sweet Tea I drink at home. I love finding small things that remind me of home.
Doing something new everyday allowed me to develop an appreciation for things I would not have normally been exposed to. I plan to keep this trend going so I can experience my time in Ghana to the fullest.
Michaela Catoe is a University of South Carolina student. She studied abroad in Accra, Ghana.