Year — Fall 2019
Application deadline: December 5, 2018
Known as one of the friendliest West African countries, Ghana is an ideal place to engage in a new culture. By living with a host family and attending classes with local Ghanaian students, you’ll be able to rewrite your high school experience and step outside of your comfort zone. Before long you could be browsing through markets of fresh fruits and vegetables or munching on fried plantains seasoned with chili pepper and ginger. This is your chance to get off the beaten path and join a culture that values taking the time to enjoy life. Spend a year in Ghana challenging yourself and defying expectations as you become part of a new community.
Ghanaians tend to be very community-oriented, so the needs of the group take precedence over personal desires. It’s very important to respect the elderly—even if someone is just a few minutes older than you! Children often refer to adults as “auntie” and “uncle” (or for older people, “grandma” and “grandpa”) whether or not they’re actually related. Families spend a lot of time outside, cooking meals and socializing in the courtyard. Ghanaians don’t like to rush; you’ll probably hear your friends and host family repeat the phrase “take time,” which reflects their laid-back approach to life.
Your journey to Ghana will begin in New York City, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Then you’ll travel together to Accra, where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers. There you’ll attend a three-day orientation and get a crash course on Ghanaian language and culture.
Soon you’ll be ready to head to your new community. Along the way you might see women wrapped in colorful West African fabrics walking through the streets with babies on their backs, or people playing draughts (a game similar to checkers) in courtyards or cafés. Street life is important, so there are nearly always lots of people out walking around or sitting together and catching up. No matter where you are, you’re bound to hear traditional music played by locals on drums and flutes.
AFSers have lived all throughout Ghana, but you’ll most likely be in the country’s cultural and commercial capital, Accra.
Families in Ghana tend to be large, with several generations living in the same home or compound. Your host family will likely be welcoming and hospitable, and some parents can also be strict. If you live in the north, you can expect to eat your meals around a mat on the floor.
Your friends will probably like gathering together in stadiums or in front of the TV to watch Ghana’s national soccer team, the Black Stars. You’re also likely to encounter fans of volleyball, track-and-field, boxing, and basketball. Dancing is popular, especially to music known as highlife. You might hear highlife beats—whichare influenced by jazz and other Western music—played by enthusiastic locals on guitars and horns. You can also check out the super modern hiplife genre, which is a fusion of West African music and hip-hop. Along with sports and dancing, teenagers enjoy hanging out together and watching movies, especially those made in Ghana and nearby Nigeria.
Food in Ghana is often hot and spicy, with ingredients like yams, cassava, millet, maize, beans, plantains, and rice. Some popular dishes include fufu (a dough-like combination of plantains and cassava), ampesi (boiled yams or plantains with sauce), tuo zaafi (a thick porridge of corn or millet, often called T.Z.). You can also try the famous Ghanaian red-red, which is made with beans, shrimp or prawns, red palm oil, and tomatoes. For dessert there’s kelewele (fried plantain with chili pepper and ginger) and custard melkkos (custard with cinnamon). As you explore Ghanaian cuisine you’ll find there are a variety of street foods to choose from, with vendors often selling delicacies from metal bowls perched on top of their heads.
School is a good place for you to make friends and learn first-hand about Ghanaian culture. Classes are taught in English, even though that won’t be the first language of most of your classmates. Students focus on four core subjects: English, math, integrated science, and social studies. You’ll probably be enrolled in an academic high school, but you could also attend a vocational or technical school. Your typical day will begin around 7 am with an assembly going over the daily announcements. You can take up to 6 classes, and each class lasts around 45 minutes. After school and on the weekends, you may have the opportunity to engage in a volunteer project.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.