Ghana Trip Challenges Misconceptions, Raises Awareness

Ghana Trip Challenges Misconceptions, Raises Awareness
Twenty-seven students went on the study abroad trip to Ghana this summer. (Photos courtesy of Renford Reese.)
The college students spent time with Ghanaian children.
Students from a variety of majors participated in the study abroad program.

Life-changing, amazing, inspiring and eye-opening are all words students have used to describe their summer study abroad trip to Ghana with Political Science Professor Renford Reese.

During the two-week journey in June and July, 27 students were immersed in the West African country's way of life. They went on tours, interacted with locals and listened to a variety of lectures in order to analyze of the impact of culture, politics, and institutional dynamics on contemporary Ghanaian identity.  

“This was my most rewarding academic experience,” Reese said. “I had the opportunity to see students grow, mature, and be transformed into conscientious global citizens.”

Before embarking on the trip, students took the prerequisite course PLS 499: Ghanaian Culture and Society.   

“Ghanaian lecturers and tour coordinators were impressed with how knowledgeable the students were about Ghanaian history, politics and culture,” Reese said. “All were superb cultural ambassadors for the United States and for Cal Poly Pomona.”

The trip's activities gave students the ability to do cross-cultural analysis, field research, and examine political economy and business practices of Ghana. During their field research students interviewed many Ghanaians of various ages to learn first hand their views on topics such as Americanization of Ghanaian society.

“The most compelling part of my trip to Ghana was interacting with local Ghanaians,” said Jose Vargas, a fourth year political science major. “When we talked about our cultures and ways of life, I realized that there were concrete similarities. … I had the same hospitable climate that I am used to and was glad that our cultural differences did not interfere but rather solidified such an environment.”

Before arriving in Ghana many students possessed stereotypes and misconceptions of Africa and Africans, Reese said. Nearly all of these misconceptions were effectively challenged at some point during this trip, he added.

“On the academic level, the most challenging part was stripping myself of all the stereotypes I had about Africa and really digging my hands into the experience in hopes of getting an introspective view of Ghana and Africa,” said Jocelyn Sia, a landscape architecture 2007 graduate. “I had spent most of my life uneducated about Africa as a whole.”

Tammie Velasquez, a gender, ethnicity and multicultural studies major, said the most compelling aspect of the trip was the tour of the Elmina Slave Castle in Cape Coast. Before the end of slavery, countless Africans were sold into slavery at this castle before being shipped to the United States.

“The feeling that overpowered me while I was there and the stories of all the evil that went on there is beyond words, and it is something that I will never forget,” she recalled. “Seeing the dungeons, the cells and walking in the very places where so many stolen Africans suffered, was surreal. … The slave castle was my most challenging experience, yet it was also the most life-changing.”

What Velasquez experienced at the Elmina Slave Castle was in stark contrast to the kindness and hospitality she encountered interacting with the locals.

“So many people we encountered had so little yet did not hesitate to give us whatever they had to make us feel welcomed,” she said.

During the trip Reese and a few students were interviewed by The Ghanaian Statesman, one the country's most prominent newspapers. To read the article visit,

For more information about the Ghana study abroad program, visit

See the trip first hand by watching this short video.

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