This year I decided to pack my bags and go abroad. I was a Junior at the University of Vermont and although I love VT, I wanted to get out and explore the world. I chose Ghana to spend the first half of my year abroad. Packing was tough – what kind of shoes and clothing does one bring to a country one knows hardly anything about!? I decided on some KEEN Venice H2 Sandals in an awesome shade of purple. Not only are they breathable and quick-drying, but they also have awesome grip and arch support. These would work well in a hot country where I’d be doing a lot of walking. I also grabbed a Packtowl which was perfect for backpacking and adventuring. It was light, quick-drying, absorbed well, didn’t get smelly, and was small which meant it was easily packed in my bag for whatever adventure I was up for. It was also crucial to grab a spork to ensure that wherever I went, I knew I could eat, even if my hands were dirty! I headed out after saying goodbye to the awesome people at Wilderness Voyageurs (my summer job at the coolest rafting/kayaking/outdoor store ever!), unsure of what my year would bring.
After traveling for over two days on multiple planes, I arrived in Ghana. It was nighttime and the taxi drivers were crowding my small, tired self, trying to get me to take their taxi over another’s. Luckily, my guide from the University of Ghana (where I’d be studying while there) arrived and saved me from the chaos. He took me to campus where he showed me my room – my home for the next six months. There were two small beds, two closets, a rickety ceiling fan (to keep away mosquitoes) and two desks. My roomie had arrived an hour before me and we were both excited and exhausted as we introduced ourselves and started unpacking. I grabbed my Packtowl and went to take a shower in the bathroom. Luckily the water was running at that time and although it was cold (no heated showers there!) it was a refreshing start to an incredible experience abroad. (In the following months, the water would frequently run out and we would have to take bucket showers when our hair got too greasy to deal with). I slipped off my Waimea H2 Flip Flops(great for showering in places you don’t want your toes to touch as well as walking (and quite stylish too!) plus they have a great big toe shield) and went to bed, my first night in Ghana completed.
Over the next bunch of months I attended my classes at the University of Ghana, as well as volunteering at a Child Development Center with 2 to 3 year olds, teaching them art and reading them stories. I did a lot of traveling (good thing I had a sturdy and reliable Apex 75 Recycled back pack to accompany me and my gear!), ate a ton of fufu, banku, rice and beans, plantains, redred and pineapple (that spork sure was helpful!), and drank a lot of water. Actually, concerning water, it’s good to note that water there was all either bottled or in little sealed bags. I tended to buy the bottled water (which was more expensive) but seemed a little safer, though by the end I was a cheap college student and bought the bags. I would then pour them into my nifty Wide Mouth Nalgene, which was my constant hydration buddy (a must in a country with weather like that!).
Ghana was definitely a great experience – I met a ton of amazingly wonderful people and got to see a completely different culture when compared to my little hometown in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I left the red dirt, hot weather, fresh pineapple and vibrant culture of Ghana to return to the snowy mountains and maple syrup in VT, enlightened, refreshed, and ready for my next adventure.