April 20, 2022
I’m Chailen August. I’m a fourth-year Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) major Black Studies minor and I studied abroad in Ghana through UCEAP’s University of Ghana program. Studying abroad as a black person, low-income student in Ghana was sort of like a Black paradise. It was Black paradise because usually, I’m navigating white spaces where I’m not afforded the comfort of seeing people like me. So being in Ghana allowed me to study with people, other black people, in black spaces.
While studying abroad in Ghana, I did have a couple of challenges. The biggest one, probably getting over Malaria. I got malaria twice and that’s not something I usually have to worry about while in America, but at the same time, it’s not as bad as advertised. You get some medicine and you are good in about 3 or 5 days. The second biggest challenge was definitely digesting the food, but over time I got close with the Rastafarian community because of my hair and stuff, and I got on a plant-based diet the last 3 months, so I was eating a lot of fruits, a lot of vegetables.
So some of the biggest lessons I took away while studying abroad, especially while in Ghana, was I learned a lot by myself. I learned about my heritage and my journey coming from America back to Africa. I learned a lot about my ideals and Pan-Africanism. So another takeaway I had was that being a Black American I lost my history. I lost where I came from. So being in Ghana, I found a place of home, a Black home that was welcoming, and I didn’t feel in danger at all times.
An important aspect in study abroad is getting funding. As a low-income student and EOP student, I was worried about where I was going to get the money to travel across the world. I was able to get funding through financial aid, the Gilman Scholarship, and various other scholarships provided to me through UCEAP.
The most exciting part of studying abroad for me was working on my research project. I was able to work with music professors, artists, and producers, and I was even able to make my own song, my own drill song.
Because my paper was about drill music in Ghana, the emerging rap scene out there and connecting it back to New York in the Brooklyn drill scene and the Chicago drill scene, and how they all intertwine and help bridge the gap between the African and African-American identity from the Black diaspora.
The final takeaway from Ghana is actually quite permanent. I ended up getting a tattoo while I was there. And that was a really exciting experience. It was my first one, and I ended up getting an Adinkra symbol tattooed on me, one of them being Sankofa, which means to go and return. That means a lot to me because my ancestors originally were taken from Africa, brought to America, and then years later, I went back to Africa and found another home in Ghana, which was quite a beautiful experience.