Who let me book a solo flight to Ghana?!
This is what I thought in the days leading up to my departure. I viewed the trip ahead with much anticipation and excitement but also with many questions and slight apprehension. I had questions like "Who would I be friends with?", "What classes would I take?", and "Who would be my roommate?" I typically like planning ahead and creating spreadsheets and checklists to organize my school semester. However, I learned through departure, arrival, and my first week here that going abroad includes a lot of unknowns and trusting the process.
When I arrived in Ghana I was met at the airport by U-Pals (the local University of Ghana Students helping with CIEE) and Ms. Amma. They showed us how to exchange our money and get Ghanaian Sim cards. My first culture shock moment was driving from the airport to campus. As we rode in the bus I saw many people walking, selling merchandise, and sitting along the roads. Women were carrying large trays of fruit, water, snacks, and other goods on their heads to sell and men and children also carried merchandise hoping to sell to someone on the street. When our bus stopped at a red light, many people walked among the cars weaving between motorcycles, buses, and taxis. I was not used to this! People walked directly up to the doors and windows entreating us to buy what they were selling and also to see the bus of foreigners who clearly were not used to being in Ghana.
It was very new and exciting to see the palm trees lining the road, giant billboards advertising Ghanaian products, and busy streets full of cars who don't exactly follow traffic rules. That was the second culture shock I experienced right away. Driving in Accra, Ghana does not carefully obey stoplights, stop signs, speed limits, or passing rules. It's more of a free for all everyman for himself type of transportation. I do not think I could ever drive in Ghana! However, all the drivers here are quite accustomed to the road conditions and very skillfully navigate intersections and busy roads. There seems to be a set of road etiquette rules that I do not quite understand but I am very thankful for all of the drivers who are accustomed to and comfortable on the roads of Accra.
This semester in Ghana I will learn to grow in flexibility and go with the flow of Ghanaian culture and enjoy my time here! Daily life for Ghanaians (in terms of what I've seen so far) is very different from the typical day of an average American, but I can already see that they both have their own beauties and challenges in different ways. Once classes begin at the University of Ghana I'm sure I'll have a whole new perspective!
Let the adventure begin!