Regents' Scholars' in Ghana
Regents’ Scholars’ in Ghana
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Dr. Henry Musoma, lecturer in the Undergraduate Programs Office, and 15 Mays Business School Regents’ Scholars boarded a plane on Aug. 3 and traveled over 6,000 miles across the world to spend nearly two weeks in Ghana.

The Ghana study abroad program to the nation on the west coast of Africa aimed to introduce the Mays Regents’ Scholars to the rich cultural heritage and socioeconomic development of post-colonial Ghana through a series of seminars, field trips and cultural activities.

The Regents’ Scholars program at Texas A&M is designed to assist first-generation college students. A monetary award of $5,000 and the Regents’ Scholar distinction is offered to 600 incoming college freshmen each year campus-wide.

For 12 days, these students were able to catch a glimpse of a world entirely different from their own and emerge with a new understanding of and respect for Ghanaian life.

The program fostered a sense of immersion into the Ghanaian culture and left a significant personal imprint on Musoma and the students.

“I was reminded of how hard the African people work and how prevalent socioeconomic problems really are in Africa,” reflects Musoma, who is originally from Zambia. “People work all day just to make enough money to eat that night.”

However, although poverty is rampant and the country’s infrastructure is inadequate, “joy” was the key word that students used to describe the attitudes of the locals they encountered. The students say they were awestruck by the happiness and hospitality of the Ghanaians.

“The most beautiful thing I saw was the joy of the children,” says Anthony Guzman, a sophomore management major. “I saw children in mud brick shacks, pumping water from the wells or rivers, carrying buckets on their heads or younger siblings on their backs, and yet they were happy. There was hope.”

The experience struck a similar chord with sophomore management major Shelbi Foerster. “There was trash everywhere. Little kids were going to the bathroom in the streets. I had never seen such poverty before in my life,” she says. “But in that poverty I saw joy. They taught me to be thankful for what I have and not to let my circumstances affect my joy.”

Accounting sophomore Rayshanda Massey says she was deeply impacted by her interactions with Ghanaian children at the Christ Faith Foster Home in Ghana.  “I saw so much joy in the kids’ eyes as we played simple games like soccer and volleyball and a hand clapping game we learned during our childhood,” says Massey.

She describes a young teenage girl whose dream was to have enough money to buy books and supplies, such as pens and pencils, for school. “That just shows you the value of an education and a mindset that we take for granted in the United States,” she says.

The students took several field trips and participated in cultural activities that granted them an inside look at Ghanaian culture. They participated in a drum and dance workshop hosted by the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, where they learned traditional African dances such as the “Gota.” Massey says that, for her, this was “the most exciting and exhilarating day of all.”

The group also took a day to visit several open-air city markets, which are very common in Ghana and are always bustling with people. “It was exciting, but it was also a definite moment of culture shock for the students,” says Musoma. “The streets are packed, everyone is in such close proximity to one another, and all your senses are alert.” Musoma says in Ghana, street vendors are everywhere.

Initially, the students were taken aback by the aggressiveness with which the sellers approached them. “We were very frightened, and we didn’t understand,” says Massey. “But Ghana taught me not to be quick to judge. They do this to be able to support their families.”

Other adventures included a visit to the U.S. Embassy, the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center, the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, the weaving town of Kpetoe, Kakum National Park and the Wli waterfalls. Students toured Elmina Castle, once a trading post and one of the most prominent stops on the Atlantic slave trade. They also took an excursion to the remote Lake Bosumtwi, the only natural fresh water lake in Ghana. The Ghanaian people consider the lake sacred and do not allow traditional boats on the water, with the exception of simple wood plank rafts.

The University of Ghana in Accra hosted the students during the study abroad program. Students attended academic seminars at the university to complement their real-world experiences. Notable seminars included “Slavery in Ghana and the Trans-Atlantic,” “The Role of Religion in West African Life,” “Business in Ghana” and “Pan-Africanism and the African Diaspora.” As a supplement to the seminars, a visit to the Ernst & Young Ghana office allowed students to see the global reach and influence of multinational firms.

The group was even able to spend a night in Dubai between connecting flights on the journey into Ghana. The students took a tour of the city in which they visited the world’s largest shopping mall and took in breathtaking views of the city’s rich architecture. The lavishness of Dubai served as a sharp contrast to the extreme poverty that the students encountered in Ghana.

The students expressed one key takeaway from their experiences and observations: Be thankful for what you have, and don’t take anything for granted. Foerster explained: “Until I actually experienced what it was like to live in a different country, I don’t think I had a true grasp on how good we have it here in the States.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.