Before arriving in Ghana, I was given the two options of doing a homestay or living on campus in the International Students’ Hostel, better known as ISH. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between two and understood that each had its pros and cons. I was hesitant about living in ISH because I was afraid that it wouldn’t push me outside of my comfort zone as much as a homestay would. I assumed that most of the other residents would be Americans and thought it counter-productive to travel all the way to Ghana and live with a bunch of Americans. Despite this, I ended up choosing ISH because homestays have their own limitations and I felt that living on campus would be the best way to get involved in campus life and get to know other students.
It would be an understatement to say that living in ISH has informed a significant portion of my experience in Ghana so far, as most of the friends I have made outside of class are ISH residents. I was pleasantly surprised that about half of the residents are not American but are students from other African countries. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and have discussions with people from neighboring Togo and Burkina Faso, from Nigeria and Cameroon, and from even as far east as Kenya and South Sudan. I didn’t realize it when I was choosing this housing option, but the diversity here is pretty incredible—-it’s the University’s own little melting pot of cultures and ideas.
That being said, I have also learned more from my American friends who live in ISH than I had expected to. Even though we come from the same country, and sometimes even the same city (there are at least ten other New Yorkers living in ISH!), we all come here with different expectations that have been informing our experiences. For example, some of the most meaningful conversations I have had during my time in Ghana have been with my African-American friends about Pan-Africanism, identity and what coming “back to Africa” means to different people.
From the countless movie nights and sleepovers on stormy nights, to the yelling and shouting that comes from the fourth floor TV room during football matches, to the life that overtakes the hostel during “dumsor” (a popular Ghanian term literally meaning “off and on” that is used to describe power outages) as everyone steps out of their rooms and onto the ISH balconies and stairways to enjoy each other’s company but to also avoid the sudden heat that comes with the ceiling fan being off, ISH has been quite an experience. It has been a wonderful way to experience Ghanian culture all-the-while getting a taste of a host of others and I’m grateful for the conversations and friendships that have come out of living in ISH.