Greetings from Ghana

Sac State student reflects on year abroad

carry-waterSac State’s first Study Abroad Travel Grants will be awarded this summer to a select group of students to help offset expenses related to travel, room and board, passports and more. The grants are thanks to a $10,000 allocation from the President’s Circle, a group of donors who give undesignated or unrestricted funds to the University.

The funding is an effort to encourage and increase the number of Sac State students who choose to broaden their horizons, ultimately benefiting from global connections, perspectives and experiences. Students like Shatesha Morris, a third-year social work and criminal justice double major, whose multiple scholarships helped afford her the opportunity to study at the University of Ghana-Legon in West Africa.

Shatesha shared her personal journal with Sac State Magazine.

In December 2015, I made a decision that would picture change me forever—I decided that I was going to study abroad. I remember feeling numb to the whole idea. After all, it was surreal. I would really be in Africa, 7,601 miles away from “home,” for an entire school year. Nine months later, I am approaching the completion of second semester examinations at the University of Ghana and I could not be any happier with the growth I have undergone since my arrival. I have become a better person intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. 

Here are some of my favorite memories.

November 2016

It has been exactly 86 days and 14 hours since I arrived in Accra and I couldn’t feel any better about my experience here. I finally feel completely at home in Ghana. It took a lot of time and reflection, but I have so much support, it is amazing. I can finally laugh at the worries I initially wrote about in my journal. I was afraid of walking around the mall alone (I know, sounds dumb), was anxious about catching the trotro alone (major form of transportation), did not want to leave the dorms, hated the language barriers and avoided foods at all cost. Now I truly believe studying abroad is truly essential to personal growth. The surplus of skills I am learning here I would have never learned! Yebehyiabio! (See you soon/We’ll meet again!)

December 2016

You cannot understand Africa, or Ghana, through television, or even word of mouth. It takes experience and true humility. It takes a good pair of glasses that allows you to see everything as an art.

When I first arrived, I couldn’t hand-wash my clothes without them holding stench. My muscles ached from scrubbing my jeans and rinsing my towels. I didn’t master the technique until I realized that hand-washing is an art, just like everything else here. It is something you must feel and appreciate. Something that will reveal your mistakes as the product is finished.

I used to miss being able to throw my clothes in the washer/ dryer. Now, I am able to understand the art of the sun. I put my clothes out to dry before noon because that’s the hottest time of the day and they are dry by 6 p.m. when the sun goes down. I feel close to my clothing because I understand how each article should be washed and how it dries best. They depend on me and I depend on the sun, and the sun depends on the hand that wrote it all.

January 2017

I will be completing an entire year of my fieldwork placement at Echoing Hills Village, a non-profit organization that ministers to the blind, deaf, disabled or homeless within the local community. I currently complete eight hours or more each week as a social worker and mentor to the students. My role is to assist with lesson planning and facility improvement, draft social inquiry reports, and be a listening ear to children. I also teach math and English in the classrooms for the younger children. Currently, there are 50 girls and 28 boys being housed at Echoing Hills. Most are found on the streets as victims of abuse and rejection. I’ve noticed that they find happiness in the smallest of things.

March 2017

We visited Gbeleme (bel-leh-meh) Village for our Service Learning Project. We went with the intention that we’d be able to help with some village work, but due to the heat, we were unable to do so. Instead, we received a thorough tour of the village. The village people were extremely kind and welcoming—I have never seen people so selfless. I found it humbling that they were so willing to offer us water sachets, coconuts and oranges, when they themselves faced many challenges just to obtain suitable drinking water. Despite those challenges, they effectively created a rainwater-catching system to obtain suitable drinking water for the village. We were able to learn how to fetch water from the local dam. I had trouble carrying the bucket of water back to the village as the water kept spilling. In all honesty, the children were showing me up. They led the way and I willingly followed. It was obvious that they all had unspoken knowledge on what sacrifices would be necessary to survive. I found that extremely admirable.

I am not going to lie and say that I didn’t feel selfish and privileged throughout the visit. There we were, American, and very privileged, taking what they had. I just kept feeling like we should be giving, not taking. But they insisted. Fortunately, we were able to give them clothes, as well as handout notebooks and pencils, plus cookies to the children. They were extremely thankful and expressed their gratitude by showing us a basket-weaving tutorial.

In addition to tuition, here are just some of the costs related to study abroad experiences, such as Shatesha’s year in Ghana:

Passport  $135 Academic-Year Housing $2,130
Malaria Prophylaxis $500 Meals $2,970
Roundtrip Airfare $2,400 Personal Expenses $2,000

To make a donation to support study abroad opportunities for Sac State students, visit csus.edu/giving.

Online Extra: Read more of Shatesha's adventure online at csus.edu/giving/torchlight