This summer, Webster University's campus in Accra, Ghana, received a group of 10 study abroad students in the inaugural West African Experience program.
The students' summer was marked by two exciting academic courses and a broad variety of cultural and interpersonal experiences.
Danielle MacCartney, associate professor of sociology at the Webster Groves campus, taught a course on Global Social Problems. She was able to spend the summer term teaching in Accra as a part of the Leif J. Sverdrup Global Teaching Fellowship.
The second course for the study abroad students, Pan-African Social Movements, was taught by Michael Williams, academic director of the Ghana Campus. There was also a one-credit International field experience for enrolled participants.
Visiting Ghana for the first time, the students and faculty were able to integrate easily and make life long connections and friendships on campus as well as throughout the community of East Legon, where the campus is located, and the Greater Accra region.
A Historical, Cultural, Life-Changing Experience
Outside of their academic program, they had the opportunity to tour several cities and towns throughout the country, where the group was exposed to the rich history and cultural heritage of the Ghanaian people. Some of the participants visited the Northern Region of the country where they visited Mole National Park, the largest national wildlife park in Ghana. The group also toured Aburi, in the Eastern Region, where they were able to visit one of the country’s most remarkable botanical gardens.
The study abroad participants explored other important historical sites in Ghana, such as the Elmina Slave Castle in the Central Region. The visit to Elmina Castle gave the group a better understanding of the history surrounding the early arrival of Europeans in Africa and the devastating transatlantic slave trade.
The Elmina Castle is recognized by UNESCO as the largest and oldest slave dungeon in the world and also a world heritage site.
What made the Central Region trip even more memorable was the re-enactment of the slave trade through a performance by the National Dance Ensemble of Ghana and a groundbreaking exhibition by renowned Ghanaian sculptor, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo where 1,300 cement-cast heads were showcased in memory of those who lost their lives in the dungeons and beyond. This gave a historic visualization of the Middle Passage.
While in the Central Region of Ghana, the group also toured Kakum National Park, a dense tropical rain forest, where students were able to take in a scenic canopy walk. The group explored natural waterfalls, including Wli in the Volta region, also known to be the highest waterfall in West Africa. The students were amazed at the sheer tranquility the waterfalls provided and had the opportunity to swim and take in the beautiful natural surroundings which included diverse vegetation and plants often used for medicinal purposes by the local community.
Opportunities for Students, Faculty
For most of the students, visiting Ghana -- and Africa -- for the first time was a life changing opportunity. They were able to absorb the culture of the country and its diverse and hospitable people.
Participants plan to collaborate with the Office of Study Abroad and other departments at Webster to invite students to an event in St. Louis this fall on the West African Experience. They hope to attract more students to experience all that Ghana, familiarly known as the “Gateway to West Africa,” has to offer as a new and exciting Webster study abroad destination.
For more information on study abroad to Ghana, please contact the Office of Study Abroad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faculty interested in the Leif J. Sverdrup Global Teaching Fellowship should contact Hannah Verity, director of Global Program Development and interim director of Study Abroad, at email@example.com.