Hello fellow Boilermakers!
This summer has been one of the most fun, adventurous, and educational experiences that I have ever had. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I work for the Black Cultural Center (BCC) as the student coordinator for the New Directional Players, which is the theater and acting company of the center. I love working for the BCC and I am an avid participant in BCC events. As an employee and student member of the center, I was offered the opportunity to join the BCC and the African American Studies Department on an inaugural study abroad experience to Ghana, West Africa to study modern Ghanaian culture and ancient African traditions as well as complete coursework in Pan African and Black Power studies through the AAS department. I eagerly accepted the offer, completed the necessary steps and before I knew it, I was on my way with the staff and fellow BCC participants half way across the world. After weeks of preparing and coursework for the trip, I was so excited at the airport to be traveling to a place I previously would have never imagined being able to go. Boarding the flight to JFK, I thought about how that was the first time I had ever been on an airplane and it would be to travel thousands of miles. I was not quite sure what to expect once the plane landed in Accra, which is Ghana’s capital. I imagined what I had seen in the media about the continent of Africa, as a whole, and thought that everywhere has its problem places and that I would not let negative depictions sway what I anticipated to be a life changing experience. After a long 11 hour flight from JFK to Accra, after we stepped off of the plane to the city, it had still not hit me that I was on a completely new continent. Our first stop was to exchange currency at the mall and I immediately noticed a few cultural differences with personal interactions, language differences, customs and other related things. The people of Ghana and the city of Accra were very welcoming and I enjoyed that because I felt like I was coming home. Riding through the city was amazing; I was able to see the daily life of a Ghanaian and how they operate in their society. Some of the places we went and things we did in Ghana included: visiting the markets to shop, going to the museums, viewing the rainforests, hiking a trail to a waterfall, going to historical landmarks, going to the beach, learning how to sew and make ink to create patterns on clothing, going to a theater play, listening to a lecture on politics at The University of Ghana, attending a series of classes on traditional African dance and participating in an ancestral ritual at a historical slave castle in Cape Coast. My favorite part of the experience was going to the waterfall because once we hiked the trail and got to our destination, I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace, achievement and pride; I am happy that I was able to come to the home of my ancestors that is the continent of Africa. In the 10 days there, we learn so much and it shaped my thought process and the way I think of the world differently than how I thought before I went on the trip. I am very thankful and grateful for the experience and I hope to return to Africa someday soon.
— Sarah Muhammad, Junior, Dietetics