Finding "Home" Across the Globe
By Fatima Jeylani, UHP Student; Management Information Systems, Class of 2020.
Studying abroad has been a dream of mine since I could remember. If I’m honest, the reason I chose the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities as my college was because of its extensive study abroad programs. In winter break of 2018-2019, I decided to finally live out this dream and signed up to attend a 3-week study abroad session in Ghana. I chose Ghana for its rich history with pan-Africanism as the first black nation to gain independence from European colonialism, but also for the diversity within the nation itself. Approximately 18% of the nation is Muslim, while 71% adhere to Christianity, and the rest to indigenous beliefs. Across the country, there are an estimated 80 native languages spoken, with English being one of the official languages. With such diversity in regards to religion, tribes, and languages, I craved nothing more than to experience a country that normalized its population’s differences. As a child of diaspora in the US with multiple marginalized backgrounds, isolation from mainstream society was consistent through my childhood. Because of this, I was curious to experience a life outside of racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia.
Through the Social Entrepreneurship & Diplomacy in Ghana program, I experienced the culture directly and also saw how social enterprises are shaping the country and creating systematic change. These organizations are influencing a generation by empowering underprivileged communities, equipping them with needed resources, and emphasizing community building & values in their business structure. One of our program’s visits was to Soronko Academy, a school designed to teach young girls how to code and create technological skills for future economic value. Speaking with the founder, Regina Honu, we learned of the importance of teaching young women technology and about the global issue of the gender divide. Through her strong dedication and passion, Honu is able to run nonprofit programs such as these, along with her for-profit enterprise, Soronko Solutions, showcasing a business structure that relies on self-funding.
In addition, studying abroad in Ghana allowed me to engage with the local Ghanaian culture, opening my eyes to the deep traditional values influencing its society today. I spent hours walking in the markets across the cities of Accra and Kumasi, while others were spent experiencing the night life there by attending dinners and music events. From the bustling markets, touring the slave castles, to walking around the beautiful campus that is the University of Ghana, Legon, I was able to immerse myself in the country’s past and present. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience the world as I definitely found a home in Ghana. Each experience oddly enough felt nostalgic as if I’ve already done it before or was meant to. Nonetheless, every experience was new, exciting, and brought me outside of my comfort zone.
With any enriching experience, there are challenges that accompany it. But engaging these situations with an open mind, heart, and the ability to adapt will serve you well. For any student hesitant on studying abroad, I say that there is no better time than when you’re in college and have the financial access and time to take this journey. I think of my study abroad experience every day and how I can utilize the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to guide me in my personal and professional paths. For those looking to make a global impact in their future endeavors, or merely those who want to experience a life outside of what is taught and known, I say there is no better start than to study abroad.