My partner turned to me in the car on the way driving home from a concert and said, "You know one in every three people don't return back from Africa". Another time, he told me he had to make every moment count before I go off to Africa, just in case I got kidnapped. My partner, smart, well traveled and South African himself, has been all over the world. However, his thoughts on Africa were ones I heard countless of times after I announced to my family and friends that I would be spending the summer abroad in Accra, Ghana. A close family friend of mine warned me to be careful about kidnappings, the first thing my dad responded with after I said I was accepted into the program was the security rate in Africa and my best friend saying how if I spent my summer there I would most likely get sexually harassed. It took me a while before I finally hear, "No way, Africa? Thats so cool." But even then, it was often followed by, "...but aren't you scared?"
Its exhausting hearing these remarks and having to defend your choice every time people question and give you harsh remarks on where you plan to spend your summer. You want to feel excited, but as the same time you can hear all those voices around you. Telling you that you made a stupid decision and you shouldn't be traveling there. " You can get malaria," one person will repeatedly tell you. "I heard they do so and so...how are you going to handle that?" At the end, you just need to push those voices out of your head and remember the reasons why you choose a study abroad there.
I originally chose a study abroad and internship in Africa, because I wanted something that would push me. Not only as a student, but a journalist. I thought Africa would bring a new thrill to my life. However, throughout the last few weeks I quickly learned that despite my vision of Africa may not have been some of the negative remarks I received from peers and family, but I still found myself living in a stereotype. I was too wrapped up in the idea of it being a foreign land of mystery, then realizing that it was someones home.
There are 54 countries in Africa. Yet, when we think Africa we often refer to it as one. We forget that its a whole continent. Forgetting that each country has its own special culture and history. It can be as different as traveling from Spain to Greece. A different life style, fashion, music and culinary. However, we forget that so often. We don't say, "I am going to Ghana" but, "I am going to Africa." We refer to people from Africa more as Africans, rather then Ghanaian or Egyptians.
There is so much more to discover about the continents Africa. 54 countries of new stories and adventures to discover. As a journalist we are often driven by curiosity and the unknown. So, I hope this summer will be just. That it will be the chance for me to strip the stereotypes that I have thought to be true about Africa and discover just one side of her beautiful story. I hope to take those lessons and bring them back home. So I can share with them the true stories of Ghana I hear. As journalist out job is to educate people. Bring them the truth that they may not known. In a way, we are all going to Ghana for individual reasons. We will gain so much during our time there. But Ghana will give us something back. It will let us in her home and let us know the truth of her country. So we can let people know the truth about Ghana.
With my own experience in Africa being in North Africa, I look forward with my arms open for the warm Awkwaaba embrace that the country will bring. Heres to a summer of learning Twi, a new style of story telling and un-discovering the truth behind the stereotypes that the media and society has placed on the country. And growing away from the ones I found myself believing. Heres to forgetting everything I know. Because to learn something, sometimes you need to walk in with a blank canvas of a mindset. And I am beyond thrilled for the colors the Ghana will paint on my new fresh, blank canvas.