I got a fuzzy feeling in my gut after a wonderful and well needed chat with my dear friend, Amanda, who was studying abroad in Indonesia at the time.
I was fascinated by her bathroom adventures, because toilets in Indonesia are basically holes in the ground. I was intrigued by her frustration due to language barriers with her homestay family and friends. More than mere romanticization of her experience, I had a burning desire to experience more of a culture shock myself. I believe there is such richness to be found in enduring the challenges of being dropped into a completely different culture for several months.
Studying abroad in Australia is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My experience here is indispensable. At the same time, I am in a Western society that is quite similar to the States. Australia has been an experience for internal, personal growth. Ghana will be an experience for external, cultural growth.
My decision to study abroad in Ghana in the fall of 2019 was an interesting one.
After praying and feeling out my desire to study abroad in a place utterly different from home, I reached out to the infamous Eliza Camire-Akey (my study abroad advisor at Skidmore). I inquired about studying abroad again and she graciously extended the application deadline for me.
First (insert knowing and exasperated laughter here knowing how indecisive Bri is), I was set on the CET study abroad program in Varanasi, India. I was going to learn Hindi and study culture and have a wonderful experience.
But then. I changed my mind (of course). In my African Music and Dance class, we’d recently looked at Ghana and were learning a song and dance that came from there. After looking to see if there were any arts related programs in Ghana, I decided to commit to the CIEE program in Accra.
Studying abroad while studying abroad is hard. I had trouble with pretty much everything, because everything was via email. I couldn’t simply go to the office when I had a question or needed help like I’d done when preparing to come to Australia. Phone calls were nonexistent, because I would have had to pay for that data and time zones are difficult. The time zones (even with email) resulted in everything taking more time than it would’ve taken otherwise.
Studying abroad while studying abroad was like having an extra class for about a month or so.
I struggled to get a letter from my academic advisor for my non-junior petition to study abroad as a senior. This, because I’ve never met my current advisor (being half way across the world). She became my advisor this semester since my previous advisor retired.
I hit a point of confusion about fee waivers. I was stressed, because the fee waiver I received for Australia was only possible by going into the office – I worried how I would get an extra $500. It turned out that my stress caused me to miss that there are two waivers – one that CIEE waives and one that OCSE (Off-Campus Study and Exchange at Skidmore) waives.
It took me a couple weeks to fill out both the application necessary for Skidmore and the application necessary for CIEE.
Going to Ghana requires shots. Many shots. I had to find a doctor in Melbourne. I had to get my insurance card (that comes with my IFSA abroad program package, but that I hadn’t gotten at the beginning of the semester). I needed vaccinations for Yellow Fever, I had to get Malaria pills, a certain number of booster shots, and it was required that I have a physician fill out a Physician’s Medical Report. All of the shots together were at least $500 AUD. Thank God Grammy was visiting, because she paid those bills for me. I later had to file claims for the insurance (which I’d never done before – hello, adulting) (it’s not fun, it’s frustrating). And no, I couldn’t wait to get home to my own doctor, because CIEE had a deadline that didn’t allow for waiting.
In addition to all of this, because I receive financial aid and my aid covers airfare and visa costs, a notary had to fill out certain necessary forms. I had to figure out what a notary was and then I had to find one. I went to a chemist and she signed the papers. I had to go back, because she forgot to fill out a certain part.
I then spent a week talking with the travel agent assigned to me to book the proper flights.
Meanwhile, I had papers due and class everyday, events I went to, and people I had plans to hang out with.
Without a doubt, the process of studying abroad while studying abroad is a pain. It requires so much effort, time, energy, confusion, frustration, and timeliness.
Nevertheless, I am thrilled to be studying abroad now as well as be blessed enough to study abroad again in the fall.
I am able to do this, in part, because I currently need only 3 more classes (18 more credits) to graduate – so I have the space.
I love studying abroad so much that I was willing to go through the hardship and headache of applying so that I can do it again.
This year of studying abroad will teach me more than being in one place ever could.
Study abroad. Anywhere. Anytime. For whatever reason. Don’t miss out on a life-altering and self-shifting opportunity. Seize it.