My year in Ghana: Lydia Hogg
Final year BA African Studies and Anthropology student Lydia took the opportunity to study at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana as part of her year abroad. Here, she tells us about her experience.
Written by Lydia Hogg
I applied to participate in a Study Abroad year because I was enthused by the idea of living in a new place within a university setting, and I felt that it would enrich my overall university experience. Originally, I was keen to go to the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, and I put this as my first choice alongside two friends from my course. After attending the Study Abroad fairs, we met and spoke to students who had recently returned from UWI to ask questions and hear about their experiences. Describing their time there as truly idyllic, we filled out the application forms and positioned UWI first, excited and fixed on the idea that the three of us would soon be living and studying happily in Jamaica, together. However, this was not the result we received.
After several months of waiting, I was placed at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana, an option that I had put as my fourth choice when applying. This was a huge shock, and I felt completely unprepared. I decided to give myself a week to properly research the university and the location, knowing that if I still felt unsure, I could always decline the offer. Inevitably, I decided that a year in Ghana would be a fantastic experience, both to explore a beautiful country and to widen my knowledge whilst gaining different perspectives within my subject. Without wishing to be dramatic, this was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
Though challenging at times, my year gave me new skills and strengths that I will be able to carry through to any new endeavours, including patience, problem-solving, and resilience. Due to different teaching methods and a lack of internet, I had to adapt quickly to the University’s education system to ensure I was on top of my academic studies. This meant I had to learn to manage the complexities between two different curricula and find ways to study and work in a new environment. Being the only English international student at the university I had to be confident and ask lots of questions, this helped me gain independence and pushed me into making lots of new friends, both Ghanaians and other international students from different countries.
During my time there, I chose fascinating modules on Ghanaian history and culture, and I got involved with several music and dance courses. Dance is something that I have loved all my life, but after leaving school, I lost my confidence. When I picked it up again at UCC, I was given opportunities to choreograph and perform solos in shows. I also learnt many Ghanaian styles, which broadened my understandings of Ghana at a practical level. As an Anthropology and African Studies student, studying the subject in an African country was incredibly important and allowed me to gain knowledge from an African perspective. I was also able to study Ethnomusicology with a practical approach; I had the opportunity to partake in instrument lessons and I attended many musical performances. This in turn helped me to alter my dissertation ideas and inspired me to focus on the relationship between musicians in Ghana and the western ‘world music’ industry.
Aside from the academic experiences, I got to know the beautiful and historical town, Cape Coast, and the surrounding areas. I spent lots of time at the beach with friends, and I also had many chances to travel and see other amazing parts of the country, such as the Volta Region in eastern Ghana.
Unfortunately, Covid19 had a massive impact on my time there. One minute I was living the happiest times of my life, and the next, I was on a plane home – it really felt like that. I was forced to book my flight two days before it was due to depart. UCC shut over a weekend, and I did not even get time to say goodbye. I was completely devastated. When I arrived home, I continued with essays given by lecturers at UCC, however, this became increasingly difficult as the situation continued to deteriorate. The University of Birmingham helped deal with this by offering ‘bridging coursework’ to ensure that we could finish the year. I have to mention that Dr Kate Skinner was hugely supportive of me during this time, as someone familiar with many of the lecturers at UCC, she was able to communicate with them on my behalf and help me to conclude my year there.
Now in my final year, I am working on my dissertation which is utilising a lot of information that I gained whilst on my year abroad. When the pandemic settled a bit, I made it back to Ghana for three weeks, where I met up with friends and conducted more in-depth and focused research. This would not have been possible without my Study Abroad, as many of those I interviewed were contacts I had stayed in touch with after my departure.
As I’m coming to the end of my degree, I’m looking for jobs and opportunities in the music industry, but I am also looking in Ghana. I plan to return once again after I graduate and stay for an unfixed amount of time. I truly love the country and my year there changed my life forever. Overall, my year living and studying in Ghana was incredibly poignant. I believe that doing a Study Abroad was one of the best ways to enrich my degree – it has been an essential part of my university experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity.