Wow, where do I begin?!
My time abroad has been incredibly eye-opening and truly life changing. From flying internationally for the first time to adjusting to an entirely different way of life, I learned many new things about myself – like serving others doesn’t have to mean logging the hours you spent volunteering with an agency or teaching children how to add. It can simply mean sitting with someone who is alone, or making conversation with the woman who makes your egg sandwich every morning. Sometimes that’s all it takes to brighten someone’s day. As service has always been a big part of my life and a personal value of mine, I will be forever grateful that I was able to have a hand in making a difference (of any size), in a country as beautiful as Ghana.
My experience with the Play and Learn Foundation was by far the most impactful. It was humbling to work with the kids from the foundation and learn about what they have to deal with every day. They are the strongest people I know by far, and I can only hope they go far in their lives and stay as family-oriented as they are now. When I say that those children changed my life, I truly mean it. Meeting them and seeing how much weight they carry on their shoulders, yet how they still go about life with such happiness and gratitude, was truly inspiring.
Tutoring the children was another eye-opening experience for me, as I learned quickly of the differences between American and Ghanaian education. When covering our math and reading units, I was expecting to be asked questions or to explain things further. To my surprise, I was not. In Ghana, students are expected not to ask questions and are taught to think critically but not creatively. So when I was aware that a student was having a hard time with something, I would take it upon myself to explain it because I knew he or she wouldn’t ask me for help. This was really different for me, as all of the students I’ve tutored in America consistently ask me to clarify things. Seeing this in Ghana allowed me to gain a broader perspective for global differences in education that I will be able to consider throughout my career in education.
There's an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We have to go far — quickly. Thank you University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), Abigail M Opong-Tetteh Claudia Tawiah-Amoako Madeline Pippel David Petersen Shelbi Torres Brooke Josenhans Paulina Nichols Video Credit @Brenna Jordan
Posted by Play and Learn Foundation on Wednesday, August 15, 2018
During my final group tutoring session, some of the kids asked about my last day in Accra and when I told them, two of the girls said they would come back to say goodbye. I wasn’t sure if they actually would because it was a few days away but to my surprise, they showed up on my last evening there. I gave them hugs, we spent several hours together, and they wanted to help me pack and stay to watch me get on the bus to go to the airport. It was getting dark and I wanted them to start heading back home since it took them a half hour to walk to my hostel. Many tears were shed but although it was hard to say goodbye, I am honored that they came to see me. I will never forget that special moment.
All in all, I have to say that I really enjoyed my time in Ghana and I have found myself missing it immensely since I have been back. Looking at the photos of me with my students and the new friends I made has become a regularity, to remind myself that although I’m not physically with them, my heart is and I will always have these memories to look back on. If given the opportunity, I would go back in a heartbeat, no questions asked.
I want to say “Medase, Ghana” (thank you, Ghana) for all that you have allowed me to see, all the wonderful people that I was able to meet and connect with, and for all that I was able to discover about myself during the time I was there. Ghana will always hold a special place in my heart and I hope that one day I can make it back to see how my students have grown up and flourished, like I know they will. This trip has been a dream come true, and one that I will never forget. Thank you to all that have been following along.
All my thanks,
Danielle Gehrlein is a rising sophomore at Pace University. She is pursuing a double degree in Adolescent Education and English. She was in Ghana from July 15 – August 8 and has been posting about her experience here on the School of Education’s blog.