By Jennifer Cochran
Ohio University senior Grace Gaboury is homesick. Her Cleveland Heights home is just a few hours away, but she misses her family, friends and school, as well as the relaxed pace of life, in Ghana. Gaboury spent fall quarter teaching 4th-6th graders at the Flowers Gay School in Cape Coast, a city southwest of the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
Gaboury majors in middle childhood social studies and language arts. Her sister, an Ohio University graduate, encouraged her to study abroad, so she applied for what she saw as the most unique opportunity to teach abroad-the Teach in Ghana Program. Although her only previous experience outside of the United States had been spring break trips to Cancun and Jamaica, Gaboury adjusted well to life in Ghana and says she wasn't ready to come back when her program concluded three and a half months later. She hopes to go back to Africa sometime.
Gaboury lived with a host family in a village outside Cape Coast and took a taxi into the city each morning with her host mother, also a teacher, and a number of neighborhood children. She says she felt very comfortable after the first two weeks in Ghana. "I opened myself up to change," she says. She spent a great deal of time with her host family and enjoyed getting to celebrate her birthday with them.
"Her enthusiasm and determination to put herself in an environment that was dramatically different than her own made her an excellent candidate for this program," says Cathy Huber, assistant director of Education Abroad.
Ohio University students who teach in Ghana need to be flexible. Gaboury explained that one of her first challenges was to understand the accented English her students spoke. There are also many cultural differences. She was surprised to find that her students stood when she entered the classroom and "the kids are taught not to look you in the eye," Gaboury explained. She found that teaching methods she learned and used in the United States would not work in Ghana because her classes were so much bigger there and students were not accustomed to concepts like group work. Each of her six classes contained about 50 students. "You realize this is really different than how we do things at home," says Gaboury. "There are days you throw aside your lesson plans."
Although it's difficult to put into words just how this experience of living and working in another culture has changed her, Gaboury claims it has done just that. "You have to know that your life will change," she exclaims. "I realized that a teacher can do a lot with a black board and a piece of chalk and to expect excellence from my students no matter what." Gaboury hopes to do her student teaching abroad and says she may pursue a master's degree in Urban Education.
The Teach in Ghana Program was developed jointly by the Ohio University's Office of Education Abroad and the Institute for the African Child and takes place in fall quarter. Ohio University students interested in participating in the program must submit an application which includes an essay, recommendations and student records, then interview with a screening committee. Students and their parents participate in a pre-departure orientation during which they have the opportunity to talk with students from Ghana as well as faculty and staff members who have experience living in Ghana. For more information, interested students may contact Cathy Huber in the Office of Education Abroad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 597-2721.
Jennifer Cochran is assistant director for communications in the Center for International Studies.
Ghanaians find special connection
By Kelly Durso
Many students from around the world come to Ohio University every year to pursue a graduate degree. For the last five years, one African nation has seen a steady increase in enrollment and has become the most well-represented nation from Africa.
According to the fall 2003 international student enrollment figures from International Student and Faculty Services, there are currently 56 students enrolled in Ohio from Ghana. That is almost twice the size of the next country, Kenya, which has 27 students.
Acacia Nikoi, assistant director of African Studies, says that the steady increase in enrollment is due to faculty connections, environment and word of mouth. She says another important factor is the small-town atmosphere of Athens.
"Athens has a draw because it is a small town and doesn't have many distractions as a big city would," Nikoi says.
Kwaku Owusu-Kwarteng came to Ohio University after two of his friends recommended the school and its programs. He credits the desire of many students from Ghana to attend graduate school and a network of friends that have spread the word about Ohio University to the country.
"There is a very strong desire for graduate study but not much opportunity back in Ghana," Owusu-Kwarteng says. "The fact that there is a sense of adventure to find what is out there and bring it back to Ghana is the draw of studying abroad."
Owusu-Kwarteng says that Ohio University has made a substantial contribution to Ghana both financially and educationally. He says that many students return to Ghana to help their country and recommend the University to other students.
Nikoi agrees that the goal of many Ghanaians is to return home to improve their country. She hopes that the number of students from Ghana keeps growing as it has for the past five years, because she feels that Ghanaians play an important role at Ohio University.
"It's so great that we have so many Ghanaians," says Nikoi. "I think there presence enhances the programs they are in and the education of American students."
Kelly Durso is a student writer with University's Communications and Marketing.