Sometimes there are experiences that you know will benefit you long after their end date, the memories lasting much longer than the trip itself. My two-month trip in Ghana over the past summer was one of these times.
In November 2011, I set off on an African adventure to take part in a two-month journalism internship at the state-owned newspaper, The Ghanaian Times. Though I did not arrange this through the Hawke Ambassador Program, such trips can easily be arranged regardless and I would recommend them for all students.
Upon arrival I was greeted by the humidity and heat of the Ghanaian air. Within hours I had the chance to taste the spices, flavours and consistencies of Ghanaian food that were previously foreign to me.
During my first week I was continually greeted with smiles. Whether it was the children on the street, market sellers, or my colleagues in the office, the phrase “Obruni ati sen?” – “Foreigner, how are you?” was heard on a daily basis.
At work I was given opportunities I had never been given before. I worked four days a week in the office, going out on assignments, writing stories and chatting with staff. I also took part once a week in an outreach program at a local high school.
The program was run under an organisation called ‘Voices of the World’, providing high school students with an opportunity to learn about the world of media and to express themselves and their stories.
Writing this piece after eight weeks in Ghana life has made me comprehend how much I have truly grown. On day one I was enthralled, intrigued, excited and admittedly a little scared about the experiences that were to come. Now, looking back and helping other volunteers has made me almost feel like a local. I now understand the customs of everyday life; something on day one I never thought possible.
My weekends were also filled with travel as I saw the wonders this country has to offer.
Many times I was greeted by moments where I was frozen by serenity. The moments where no pictures could truly capture the beauty I was seeing first hand.
Ghana is a relatively unknown tourist destination in comparison to its more popular east African counterparts, especially in Australia. However, now that my trip has come to a close, my only regret is not having a longer volunteer experience.
I have swum under waterfalls, slept in tree houses, basked under the warm sun, partied on the beach to traditional music for Christmas and eaten food with my hands. I have come to learn a few Ghanaian dance moves (rather abysmally, may I add) and I have made friends from all over the world.
I lived with Americans, Dutch, Danish, Italian, English and Japanese, as well as fellow Aussies during my homestay.
Not to mention my local friends who, thanks to Facebook, I will now be able to keep in touch with.
Though there were times, naturally, when homesickness occurred, this usually left me as quickly as it came.
This past summer has been one I will remember for a long time. It has not only been beneficial for my journalism studies, it has also opened my eyes to a whole new world; a world far removed from little old Adelaide.
This experience is one I would, without a doubt, recommend to all those looking for a little adventure, a little fun, some hard work and an eye-opening trip – a trip that will stay with them long after the plane ride home.