I found it very difficult putting into words my experience in Ghana after returning home. When people asked me how my trip was I found myself using words such as interesting, insightful, and eye opening. Before leaving for Ghana, I tried not to do too much preliminary research, because I wanted to avoid arriving with too many preconceived notions. I am so glad that I did, because I had enough trouble getting over the shattered misconceptions that existed just in the general public. What did I expect in Ghana? I think I expected a more rural environment, such as that is shown on discovery channel. I did not expect to be dropped in the middle of a busy thriving city. I do however, recognize the fact that I only got to experience a very small portion of Ghana, however I feel that it was such an enriching experience because we were shown all of the elements that you naturally wouldn’t associate with Africa. We saw industry and commerce and technology, all of which are left out of main stream dialogue when discussing Africa. A term that our group coined was T.I.A.A., this is also Africa, which is a play off of T.I.A., this is Africa. This is Africa refers to so many of the stereotypes that exist amongst mainstream society, This is also Africa, refers to everything else that often gets left out of the dialogue, but that which plays an integral role in formulating African society. T.I.A.A. for me mostly meant the people of Ghana. I have never felt so welcome anywhere in the world. Everywhere we went we were met with warm embracing smiles and genuine inquires about ourselves and our trip to Ghana. I can not say enough great things about the people of Ghana, all I can say is that the Western world could learn a lot by embracing just a few of the communal practices that exists in Ghana.
My trip to Ghana also played a significant role in developing my global sociological imagination. Although my time was brief, I could see how my short stay affected those around me, whether it be by spending surplus capital at the market, or by sharing knowledge with colleagues at the Human Rights Advocacy Centre or Echoing Hills. I left with the feeling that I not only was able to give to those around me, by sharing my experiences, but that I was able to take so much back with me. I will forever be grateful of my time spent in Ghana and feel that this trip will impact several decisions in my future.
Most importantly, when referring to my global sociological imagination, I hope to have affected the lives of students that we gave scholarships too. Hopefully those students will be able to look back at our visit and state that we played an integral role in aiding them in achieving their academic and career goals. As well, I pray that we have inspired an idea of paying it forward, whereby those that we were fortunate enough to help will in turn help others. With technology and globalization it is ignorant to think that our actions do not affect those on the other side or the world, I am just glad that for once I can refer to globalization as a positive influence.
One of the things that really stuck with me on this trip was something that one of our lecturers said. She said that when traveling, we comment on what is different, not what is the same. I found this to be a very powerful statement and saw how by recognizing this fact I could change my perceptions. One thing that I tried to do on this trip was look for similarities amongst Ghanaian and Canadian societies and use that the form by opinions rather than constructing the “other” by focusing only on the differences.
Another important achievement, one which I think is important for all world travelers, was the process of deconstructing fears that had been built up prior to arriving in Ghana. Before departing for Ghana, people kept warning me about infectious bugs, food poisoning, and theft. From my experience, I can say that, although I was careful, none of these things were an issue for me and in reality they were built up far more than reality. I do think it is important for individuals to go out into the world to experience life outside of their little box and not allow other people misconceptions shape how we view things. If I had let those who talked only of the bad parts of Africa shape my view of the world I would have never have left Canada. The world is a beautiful place but it must be experienced in order to truly be appreciated.