Located on the western coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, this former British colony is one of the most peaceful and politically stable countries in Africa. Situated just a few degrees north of the Equator, Ghana's tropical climate not only lends itself to growing cocoa, pineapples and coffee beans, but also is a warm destination for ISEP students desiring a truly unique experience living in a developing country. You will undoubtedly feel welcome within the heart of this laid-back culture, known for its friendly people and relaxed attitude toward the concept of time.



Languages Spoken:

English, Twi

Education System

THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA

With a current student population of about 29,754 students (male/female ratio - 2:1), the University of Ghana is the largest, and oldest university in Ghana. First named the University College of the Gold Coast, and then the University College of Ghana after independence, it was founded in 1948, and had a special relationship with the University of London, with degrees issued in the latter’s name until 1951, when the University began granting its own degrees.

The university lies about 13 kilometers north-east of Accra, the capital city. It is an internationally recognized institution, supplying most of the nation's trained labor force.

The University of Ghana offers a variety of courses for both full time and part time students. There are currently over 200 exchange students from the U.S. through several exchange programs including ISEP. There are also roughly 500 non-American international students at the university, mainly from other African countries.

Academic Matters

As a former colony of the British, the teaching and examination style of the University mostly follow the British model of lectures by faculty with occasional class discussion. Language of instruction is English. The academic year is divided into two semesters, with the first semester (fall) typically beginning in early September and the second semester (spring) in late January. The grading system is similar to that of the United Kingdom, and almost all courses require an end of semester exam, with a 70% = A.

Textbooks are hard to come by, as such most courses may entail the handing out of lecture materials (pamphlets as it is mostly called by students) by lecturers. Some lecturers may require you to purchase such materials from them. For courses in your major, you may wish to bring a basic textbook from home. Class sizes vary; some could have up to 400 students, especially at the lower levels. Some of these also have a regular seminar period divided into smaller student groups. You should expect less continual evaluation of your work and a greater emphasis on memorization. Much emphasis is put on out-of-class study in preparation for the final exam, which is 100% of the grade.

There are absolutely no early examinations arranged for international students. All students are expected to take the examinations during the official examination period. If a student fails to comply with this practice this practice, he or she will not receive a grade for the course in question.

Because University salaries are low; professors often take additional work, which affects their ability to hold classes regularly at the scheduled time. Be prepared for some classes to start weeks after the official starting date. Students should note that relationships between students and lecturers are very formal. Open debate and/or questions that may be perceived as "challenging the professor's knowledge" should be restricted to after class, one-on-one discussions with the lecturer. During one-on-one sessions, students may discuss other academic topics as well as bring along supplementary materials they may have (i.e. text books brought from home).

Short course descriptions are provided on the University of Ghana’s website: www.ug.edu.gh. If you need a more detailed description, you may contact the office of the ISEP Coordinator in Ghana and they will do their best to provide you one.. Of the courses listed on the University's website, not all are offered every semester. Odd-numbered courses are offered in the fall and even numbered courses are offered in the spring. If you absolutely must have a course for some reason, please check with the ISEP office in Ghana in order to ensure the course will be offered in the semester that you are planning to study in Ghana.

Once you decide to study at the University of Ghana, we advise that you email a description of your courses to your home advisor for approval, to ensure your selected courses they meet your university requirement and are transferable. If there is a course you have to have for your home university and it is not offered by the University of Ghana, Ghana may not be the best option for you.
Because of this situation, it is not recommended that students study at the University of Ghana during their last year unless they need only electives to complete their degree. Listing desired courses on the ISEP Study Site Request form is not a guarantee that these courses will be available during the term you intend to study in Ghana.

Exchange students should select courses at the 300 and 400 level, which may be closer to 200 level courses at your home institution. Former exchange students recommend taking one course each in a variety of disciplines and taking a lot of courses as electives. Those needing several courses in one field may not get as much course content as they need for their major or minor field.

The process of registering for classes will likely differ from your home university. You will register online for courses, but you will also register in person with each department. This process is usually not more involved than signing your name to a sheet of paper or at most completing a one page sheet. Past ISEP students advise that registration can take all day (so you may want to bring some fruit or something to munch while waiting in line). It may also take about one month for classes to get in full swing, another reason for learning to relax while observing and learning as much as possible.

African Language Classes

As part of the ISEP program benefits, we have arranged for all ISEP students to be given a beginner-level Twi language course during their first semester. This course, suggested by our Resident Director in Ghana as well as past ISEP students, will appear on your transcript from the University of Ghana. Students may also elect to take beginning level classes in any of the major languages of Ghana: Twi (which includes Asante Twi and Fante Twi), Ga, Ewe and Dagbani. Twi is by far the most popular and widely spoken language in Ghana. Ga is the local language of Accra. Learning either of the two languages probably would be useful, but knowledge is not necessary for survival.

Ghanaian Students

Opportunities for Ghanaians to attend university are limited to the very best students. They tend to take their studies seriously, and you will find them spending a lot of time reading in the library. Their stipend for food and personal expenses will be smaller than yours. Be aware that they will have four students to a dormitory room while you will have only two. The University has traditionally been a residential campus. The desire to maintain this status limits spaces in the face of the ever-increasing demand. Despite official university policy, the administration accepts "perchers," students for whom no accommodations are available. Some of them work themselves into rooms already accommodating four students.

Residence Halls

In the summer of 2000, the University of Ghana officially opened the International Student Hostel (ISH) to address the increasing housing demands and growing international student population. Upon arrival you will be assigned a room that will be shared with either another international student or a Ghanaian student. In addition to the international students, Ghanaian graduate students make up a small number within this dormitory.

Off-campus housing is not available through ISEP benefits. Students wishing to move off-campus must pay the entire cost themselves. A university official will inspect your off-campus housing to determine that security is adequate before final approval is given.

GHANAIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM

The education system in Ghana is in transition; moving away from the traditional British model toward a system similar to that in the United States. Entry into university is based on the school certificate or the General Certificate of Education, plus an entrance examination. Candidates are selected from those suitably qualified.

The first stage in higher education, undergraduate studies, leads to the bachelor's degree or to a professional qualification. A bachelor’s degree may be obtained in three or four years, depending on the discipline and the type of degree: general or honors. Sometimes there is a preparatory year, as in medicine. In certain fields, such as agriculture, science, geography, and psychology, the bachelor's degree may be obtained as a general degree or as an honors degree, with the courses of study differing according to the degree to be received. In some cases, an honors degree requires an additional year of study. Professional qualifications are marked by the award of certificates or diplomas after one or two years' study.

Graduate studies lead to the award of the master's degree and doctor's degree and to various postgraduate diplomas and certificates. A master’s degree may be obtained following two years of coursework and research after the bachelor's degree, and a thesis must be presented. In science, studies may last one year after a four-year honours degree. To obtain a doctor’s degree, three years' research on an approved subject and the presentation of a thesis are required. Advanced professional qualifications are awarded as certificates and diplomas following one or two years' study after the bachelor's degree.

Visa and Residency

STUDENT VISA/RESIDENCE PERMIT

A visa is required and you will need to obtain it before you travel to Ghana; they are not issued at the border. Contact the Ghanaian Embassy (contact information below) for information and visa application forms. Be sure to fill out a multiple-entry visa application form, at least one month before departure. Also be aware that there is generally a $100 fee for visa processing. The application can be downloaded from the embassy website or can be requested in writing; call the embassy if you have any trouble accessing the visa application form. A copy of your ISEP Letter of Certification (part of the Participant Placement Acceptance Packet) should be used as "proof of financial support." The University of Ghana admissions letter should be used as the "Letter of Invitation from Principals in Ghana." Two references in Ghana will be required on your applications form; please use the names and contact information provided on the University of Ghana Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) for the ISEP Resident Director and the Dean of International Programs.

YELLOW FEVER CERTIFICATE OF IMMUNIZATION

In accordance with International Sanitary Regulations, all persons entering Ghana are requested to have a valid certificate of immunization against yellow fever. Do not submit your certificate together with visa application form. Keep it and present it at the port of entry in Ghana. All students are required to have a comprehensive medical check-up before their departure for Ghana and to bring a letter from their doctor stating that they are in good health.

REGISTERING WITH IMMIGRATION

Although you will be given a number of months or years on your visa by the Embassy of Ghana, at the point of entry, you will go through Immigration and an officer will stamp a number of days that your visa will be valid before you should extend your visa. This will entail gaining an additional visa extension once you are in the country. The ISEP Resident Director and staff will help you register with Ghana Immigration Service once you arrive. The process begins during orientation and will take about three weeks altogether for processing. The cost for this is the equivalent of approximately USD $27 per month. If you are going to be in Ghana for two semesters or one academic year you will have to register with authorities and obtain a residence permit (approximately USD $138) when you are in the country.

While in Ghana, you should carry your University of Ghana student ID with you at all times. Police will occasionally ask foreigners to show their papers.

EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES


ISEP recommends that you call the embassy or consulates before sending documents to ensure that the address is correct

 
GHANAIAN MISSION in the UNITED STATES

Embassy of Ghana
3512 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 686-4520 to 4526
Fax: (202) 686-4527
http://www.ghanaembassy.org/
Consular@ghanaembassy.org

Ghana Permanent Mission to the U.N.
19 East. 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 832-1300
Fax: (212) 751-6743

The Honorary Consulate of Ghana
3434 Locke Lane
Houston, Texas 77027
Tel: (713) 960-8806
Fax: (713) 960-8833

U.S. MISSION in GHANA

Embassy of the United States of America
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra
P.O. Box 194
Accra, Ghana
Tel: (233)-(030) 274-1000
After Hours Emergency: (233)-(030) 274-1775
Fax: (233)-(030) 274-1362
http://ghana.usembassy.gov/

Consular Section
No. 19 Fifth Link Road, Cantonments
Accra, Ghana
Telephone: (233)-(030) 274-1570
Fax: (233) (030) 274-1426
E-mail: ACSaccra@state.gov

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Ghanaians are a very friendly people, and both female friends and male friends hold hands when together. Ghanaians are assertive people, but not hostile. American women may find that they are sought after for relationships by Ghanaian males. If you do not desire a relationship, a firm, yet polite refusal should suffice.

Greeting others in Ghana is very important. It is considered rude to walk past an adult in a house without greeting him or her, or to get to business right away without taking the time for an initial greeting. Due to the special emphasis placed on greetings, a handshake is essential. Men and women usually do not shake hands unless the hand is extended first by the woman. Western women, though, will usually have their hands shaken by African men.

Gender issues can be very tricky to negotiate cross-culturally, especially when it comes to personal relationships. Keep in mind that this is one of the most common areas of misunderstanding when crossing cultures; proceed with caution until you know more about the culture. What you view as completely normal behavior may be interpreted in a totally unexpected way by the people around you.

Students should be aware that Ghanaian culture is quite conservative when it comes to dating and sexual relationships. Largely due to the media, many Ghanaians do hold a stereotype of Americans, particularly American women, as being more sexually uninhibited than Ghanaians. You should be aware that many Ghanaians will consider that a female student who invites a male student to her room, or who accompanies a male student to his room, is interested in a sexual relationship; some will consider that she has given consent to such a relationship merely by offering or accepting such an invitation.

Students who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual should be aware that homosexuality, in Ghana, is illegal. Due to this, there is very little tolerance for homosexual behavior and little to no support network for homosexual persons either on the campus, or in Accra.

LIVING AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IN GHANA

Foreigners are almost universally treated with great friendliness and tolerance in Ghana. Racial discrimination is generally not a problem, but some Caucasian exchange students have reported feeling racial discrimination against them. This is due to several kinds of misunderstandings.

Firstly, Ghanaians may continue speaking in a local language when an exchange student joins the group. This can be uncomfortable, but it is likewise less comfortable for them to change to English, which they are often not as proficient in (but are forced to use because it was the language of their colonizers).

Secondly, it is quite easy to notice when Ghanaian students are talking about an exchange student and laughing, appearing to be making fun of the student. Although it may indeed be true that they are making fun of that student's differences, they are generally unaware of how this might make the American student feel. It may not occur to some students that Americans, who seem to have so much going for them, would be vulnerable to the same sensitivities and problems that they might face. Many have not been exposed to as many diverse people as Americans have and have not had the opportunity to think about cultural differences and commonalities. One strategy for this kind of situation is to learn to laugh at yourself – you are bound to do some things oddly, and becoming comfortable with that fact is key for an enjoyable stay. Learn to see things as they do, and you will have learned something extremely valuable.

Thirdly, you might experience some services you might deem poor based on your home country experience. In the past, we have had reports of exchange students being served last or receiving poor service in a public place, such as a dining facility or other kinds of student services. When situations like this occur, you need to take a step back and ask yourself some questions; such as: What is the norm there for determining who should be served first? What is the relative importance of serving a friend compared to the person who arrived first? Or even an acquaintance; A respected person, such as a class officer or teacher. If the person providing the service is not a student, how much authority or respect does he or she receive from other students? If the respect is high, do you provide that same level of respect? If it the respect is low, what is the cause of that? Can his or her own feeling of self-esteem be raised by exercising some authority over an American student? If the person providing the service is a student, what sources of resentment might there be toward exchange students, who are given more space in the dormitories, appear not to take their coursework as seriously and clearly have more money? These examples may help you think of other similar questions.

Unfriendly behavior among Ghanaians is rare. Once you learn to ask questions like those above and understand what people's motivations might be, you will find their acceptance, curiosity, hospitality and eagerness to know you phenomenal.

African-American students can have an additional set of difficulties. Often they are surprised to discover that the average Ghanaian does not consider them to be very different from a Caucasian American. They see and appreciate the difference, but their perception is that African-Americans are culturally closer to the U.S. than to Africa.
For all exchange students, those who have been to Ghana before highly recommend that you make an effort to break through the cultural barrier as quickly as possible. Since you will meet other exchange students during your first ISEP orientation, you may find it easier at first to spend the majority of your time with them. However, your time in Ghana is short, and it is to your benefit to meet other Ghanaian students and begin your cultural adjustment early. Former exchange students are unanimous in their opinions that the Ghanaians will definitely make you happy you got to know them.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Ghanaians are a very friendly people, and both female friends and male friends hold hands when together. Ghanaians are assertive people, but not hostile. American women may find that they are sought after for relationships by Ghanaian males. If you do not desire a relationship, a firm, yet polite refusal should suffice.

Greeting others in Ghana is very important. It is considered rude to walk past an adult in a house without greeting him or her, or to get to business right away without taking the time for an initial greeting. Due to the special emphasis placed on greetings, a handshake is essential. Men and women usually do not shake hands unless the hand is extended first by the woman. Western women, though, will usually have their hands shaken by African men.

Gender issues can be very tricky to negotiate cross-culturally, especially when it comes to personal relationships. Keep in mind that this is one of the most common areas of misunderstanding when crossing cultures; proceed with caution until you know more about the culture. What you view as completely normal behavior may be interpreted in a totally unexpected way by the people around you.

Students should be aware that Ghanaian culture is quite conservative when it comes to dating and sexual relationships. Largely due to the media, many Ghanaians do hold a stereotype of Americans, particularly American women, as being more sexually uninhibited than Ghanaians. You should be aware that many Ghanaians will consider that a female student who invites a male student to her room, or who accompanies a male student to his room, is interested in a sexual relationship; some will consider that she has given consent to such a relationship merely by offering or accepting such an invitation.

Students who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual should be aware that homosexuality, in Ghana, is illegal. Due to this, there is very little tolerance for homosexual behavior and little to no support network for homosexual persons either on the campus, or in Accra.

LIVING AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IN GHANA

Foreigners are almost universally treated with great friendliness and tolerance in Ghana. Racial discrimination is generally not a problem, but some Caucasian exchange students have reported feeling racial discrimination against them. This is due to several kinds of misunderstandings.

Firstly, Ghanaians may continue speaking in a local language when an exchange student joins the group. This can be uncomfortable, but it is likewise less comfortable for them to change to English, which they are often not as proficient in (but are forced to use because it was the language of their colonizers).

Secondly, it is quite easy to notice when Ghanaian students are talking about an exchange student and laughing, appearing to be making fun of the student. Although it may indeed be true that they are making fun of that student's differences, they are generally unaware of how this might make the American student feel. It may not occur to some students that Americans, who seem to have so much going for them, would be vulnerable to the same sensitivities and problems that they might face. Many have not been exposed to as many diverse people as Americans have and have not had the opportunity to think about cultural differences and commonalities. One strategy for this kind of situation is to learn to laugh at yourself – you are bound to do some things oddly, and becoming comfortable with that fact is key for an enjoyable stay. Learn to see things as they do, and you will have learned something extremely valuable.

Thirdly, you might experience some services you might deem poor based on your home country experience. In the past, we have had reports of exchange students being served last or receiving poor service in a public place, such as a dining facility or other kinds of student services. When situations like this occur, you need to take a step back and ask yourself some questions; such as: What is the norm there for determining who should be served first? What is the relative importance of serving a friend compared to the person who arrived first? Or even an acquaintance; A respected person, such as a class officer or teacher. If the person providing the service is not a student, how much authority or respect does he or she receive from other students? If the respect is high, do you provide that same level of respect? If it the respect is low, what is the cause of that? Can his or her own feeling of self-esteem be raised by exercising some authority over an American student? If the person providing the service is a student, what sources of resentment might there be toward exchange students, who are given more space in the dormitories, appear not to take their coursework as seriously and clearly have more money? These examples may help you think of other similar questions.

Unfriendly behavior among Ghanaians is rare. Once you learn to ask questions like those above and understand what people's motivations might be, you will find their acceptance, curiosity, hospitality and eagerness to know you phenomenal.

African-American students can have an additional set of difficulties. Often they are surprised to discover that the average Ghanaian does not consider them to be very different from a Caucasian American. They see and appreciate the difference, but their perception is that African-Americans are culturally closer to the U.S. than to Africa.
For all exchange students, those who have been to Ghana before highly recommend that you make an effort to break through the cultural barrier as quickly as possible. Since you will meet other exchange students during your first ISEP orientation, you may find it easier at first to spend the majority of your time with them. However, your time in Ghana is short, and it is to your benefit to meet other Ghanaian students and begin your cultural adjustment early. Former exchange students are unanimous in their opinions that the Ghanaians will definitely make you happy you got to know them.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

A the beginning of January 2008, Ghana implemented a new currency with the intention of making money transactions easier. The new Ghanaian monetary system is comprised of pesewas and Cedis. 100 pesewas equal one cedi. One cedi is written as GHC1. The value of the cedi has decreased in recent years, though not as dramatically as before. A useful currency converter can be found here.

Since 1988, Ghana has had privately operated foreign bureaus; these "Forex" are located throughout Accra and the country and usually offer a much better exchange rate than the banks. For the most part, the larger the bill you exchange, the better the rate you will receive. Exchanging a $50 bill will bring in more Cedis than will the same amount in smaller bills. All banks in Ghana also change money.

Forex Bureaus do not accept traveler's checks. It can be very inconvenient to cash traveler’s checks in Ghana. These can be cashed at only one bank in Accra, so they are not recommended.

ATM cards have become very popular in Ghana. We recommend that you deposit money in your account in the U.S. and bring along your ATM card to withdraw money from your home account directly. Make sure that your card has a Visa logo on it. MasterCard or other networks are not commonly recognized in Ghana. Also, it is a good idea to notify your bank that you will be traveling abroad and accessing your account, so that they will not suspect any fraudulent activity and freeze your account.

The primary means of payment is cash. Some stores will also accept Visa debit and credit cards, but stores will not accept traveler’s checks. There are several banks conveniently located on campus where students can use ATM cards that have VISA logos to withdraw money. There are many other ATMs all over the city of Accra and other major cities where ATM cards with Visa logos on them can be used.

If you still choose to bring your money to Ghana in bulk, it is recommended that you bring U.S. dollars or euros in large denominations. Students should leave their U.S. dollars and traveler's checks in a bank safe deposit box and exchange as necessary. Some international students have chosen to open U.S. Dollar or Ghana cedi accounts at one of the banks on campus.

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