2018 Summer Bisi Oyelola CIEE External Programs Ghana

Pre-Departure Woes: Preparing for Accra!

I’m leaving for Ghana next week and I am so excited! After countless days of prepping, speaking to my mentors, and consulting my family members who have gone, I’m eager to board my Delta flight and go. Traveling to West Africa seems so surreal—as if I’m traveling to the other side of the world, which you can say I practically am. But going to Ghana was a no-brainer for me. My mother was born in Ghana and speaks Twi and incorporated Ghanaian culture within the household, cooking staple West African foods like Jollof and puff puff (bofrot). Still, I have felt distanced from my culture.

Family is an integral part of African culture and is crucial to who you are and your identity. Although my mother and her father decided to start their lives in America about 30 years ago, an ocean lies between me and the other portion of who I am, as well as language and cultural barriers. Because of this, I have always felt a piece of myself has been missing. This lack of connection was strengthened when I attended Temple. Temple is an amazing school. It gave me multiple resources to explore who I am holistically and where I am from, but the social interactions that take place within cultural clubs can be just as much alienating as they are inclusive. My African identity—or lack thereof—showed and it made me question if my proud proclamation of where my family is from was truly honest.

As I prepare to leave, I can’t help but keep this anxiousness in the back of my mind. What will happen when I step foot in Accra for the first time? What will happen when someone speaks Twi and I do not know how to respond back? Will I be reprimanded for not knowing my culture or accepted for trying to figure out a little piece of who I am? I’m thinking these scenarios but I also am open and ready to be challenged outside of what I am used to. Ghana is a beautiful country. Even though I have not been in person just yet, the culture my mom exudes rubs off on me. I am not completely alienated from African life and as I’ve grown, I’ve worn my first-generation African-American status proudly. The Ghanaians I’ve encountered thus far have been very welcoming and accepting—the most welcoming and accepting people I know and there’s a sense of African pride that I’m proud to have inherited.

Since attending the Vira Heinz program, I began to realize my mother’s role as a woman and the importance of being a young African-American woman. Women are pioneers in every field and the program that I took part in helped me to set goals for myself while abroad. I aspire to research cultural attitudes that pertain to reproductive health rights in Ghana. I would like to apply the research that I conduct abroad to other countries which may affect attitudes toward reproductive rights and limitations for women. I also would like to see how families interact. My family tends to be secular at times. We all tend to do our own things, but I know family is valued in Ghana. Hopefully, my fears will not be realized, and I am sure I will have a fantastic time abroad. Until then!

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3 comments

    1. Hi jasmine, I’m actually half Nigerian half Ghanaian but I was referring to bofrot! My family typically goes by the Nigerian name but I realized it’s not universal. Sorry!

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