Study abroad trips may be popular at TCU, but one destination far from the rivieras of Europe still struggles with numbers: Ghana.
The study abroad program in the West African republic of Ghana takes place every two years and is a three-week study abroad program offered only in the summer.
Komla Aggor, the department chair of the Spanish and Hispanic Studies Department, first introduced the study abroad program in 2010. “I created this program to enable students to go to a continent that is really misunderstood by a lot of people simply because of lack of knowledge or misrepresentations about the place,” Aggor said.
Aggor, who is Ghanaian, said there has been a decrease in the number of applicants over the years, which he attributes to the trip’s cost. The trip fee is $2,490, but does not include tuition, airfare and other expenses.
“When you add everything, by the time you go on this trip and come back [it is about] $7,000 to $8,000,” Aggor said.
He said that due to the high cost of the trip, the study abroad office has set aside further financial-aid assistance to enable students to go to these areas. “I have always believed that we could do more to subsidize the cost for students,” Aggor said.
Cost, however, has not kept all students from living the Ghanaian experience. Mark Ehrhardt, a senior religion major, was a participant in 2012 after hearing about it from his religion professor, Darren Middleton. “I chose it rather than a European trip, because it really spoke to me about creating a new worldview,” Ehrhardt said.
Ehrhardt described his experience in Ghana as eye-opening. He said after an initial week of lectures on culture, different religious systems and politics, his study abroad group went on a regional tour or the entire country. “[We went] seeing cultural sites, the house of W.E.B. Du Bois, hikes and waterfalls and learning about the rich history of Ghana,” he said.
Students worked in an orphanage and in a hospital for service projects. Ehrhardt said it was a humbling experience.
“A Europe trip is so popular, but the thing with Ghana is that it gives you a glimpse into a different type of diversity, a different type of worldview that you would not get visiting another Westernized nation,” Ehrhardt said.
Like Ehrhardt, senior sociology major Gracie Garcia said she learned things she would have never been exposed to in the United States.
However, Garcia also felt different about her Ghanian experience in 2012. She said the group with whom she traveled was small and not very culturally diverse.
“There wasn’t any diversity in the students selected,” she said.
Despite her personal experience, Garcia said this trip was life-changing and it made her see the differences in values between Ghanaian and American culture, which lead to an appreciation of both cultures.
“I value so much more of the experience that I was able to gain from being in Ghana and meeting their culture.” Garcia said.
“[Ghanaians] value things that are much more important in life compared to what we value,” she said.
Her advice to students who are seeking a life-changing experience is to apply for the Summer in Ghana Program.
“Africa is the place to go,” Garcia said.
Aggor encourages students to consider Ghana as one of their study abroad destinations.