I chose to study abroad because I believe there is only so much that can be learned through our own cultural lens. I have learned the most in life when immersed in conversations and experiences with individuals who view the world in a different way than I do. Deciding to study abroad was a difficult decision, as I am in a distance learning program and have been working full time in my field while attending graduate school. However, I felt that completing my final MSW field placement abroad would teach me things I couldn’t learn in a classroom and would impact me in a way that would influence my professional practice for the rest of my life.
So, I’ve spent the past semester studying abroad in Ghana, West Africa. Ghana is a vibrant, laid back culture that centers on the importance of relationships and family. Although many of my friends and family feared that studying in Africa would be unsafe, as that is the stereotype, Ghana is actually a very safe and peaceful country. I was placed in a host home with a Ghanaian family, who treated me as one of their own and I completed my field placement with City of Refuge Ministries (CORM). CORM works to provide holistic restoration for children who have been liberated from exploitation, abuse, or trafficking. During my time at CORM, I was able to do trauma assessments, CBT, reading groups, and a weekly emotional health group with their women’s empowerment program. My days in Ghana consists of home cooked Ghanaian meals, conversations with neighbors and friends, attempting to learn Twi (the most common of many local languages), fresh fruit, hot sunshine, lots of noise, women carefully balancing goods to sale atop their heads, vibrant music, and a nice peaceful walk to the road where I would catch a tro tro (which is a brightly colored bus/van that is filled shoulder to shoulder with people and is incredibly cost effective). Studying abroad was certainly a great decision and the experience and skills I learned while in Ghana are above and beyond what I would have been able to learn at an agency similar to where I had already been working.