Professors Kwame Essien, Sirry Alang and Bruce Whitehouse worked together to create the Lehigh in Ghana program. A group of 14 students will travel to Ghana this summer as members of the program. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Credit-bearing Ghana trip attracts students across disciplines

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Every year, Lehigh study abroad programs send students to over 60 countries across the globe. Next stop: Ghana.

This summer, 14 Lehigh students have been given the opportunity to study globalization and health as part of the first credit-bearing summer course Lehigh has offered in Ghana.

Over the past year, professors Sirry Alang, Kwame Essien and Bruce Whitehouse, have brought together the health medicine and society, Africana studies and global studies programs, respectively, to create an interdisciplinary experience in Ghana.

“This program is really key to establishing Lehigh’s presence around the world,” Whitehouse said. “We haven’t had a credit-bearing program in Africa, at least as long as I’ve been here. It sets an important precedent and allows us make a better claim that we really are a global university.”

Students will spend 24 days in the city of Accra, the capital of Ghana, where they will interact with locals, attend lectures at the University of Ghana and visit health institutions in order to learn more about the dynamics of health in the country.

“It’s very common to hear people talk about western medicine without necessarily talking about other forms of treatment or intervention,” Essien said. “Part of the purpose of the program is to have students learn the history behind health institutions in Ghana, the cultural, political, sociological and religious components that come into play when we talk about health and healing in Ghanaian societies.”

After two weeks of classes, students will research topics such as globalization, health, history and culture. Alang hopes the experience will establish a conceptual framework to allow students to think about how globalization affects health.

“Health does not just exist on an island,” Alang said. “It is linked with a country’s history, a country’s culture, but also within the global atmosphere.”

Conversations about these topics have already begun among students and faculty through a series of pre-departure classes, which have sparked a new level of excitement among those participating as the trip quickly approaches.

“Students are excited about the fact that they will be able to choose what they want to do research on, and it will be something they are interested in, something that relates to their field,” Essien said.

Essien said for most of the students, this will be their first experience abroad, and they are excited about getting to learn about and experience another country, especially an African country, for themselves.

Students are required to find their own airfare and cover personal expenses and some meals, in addition to the $4,600 program cost. Travel grants are available through the Financial Aid Office, and other grants are provided through the departments for which the programs are created.

Angie Rizzo, ’19, said she looks forward to the research and the immersive experience, but she believes the trip to Ghana will be most beneficial for her growth as an individual.

“Any time you go abroad it really does a lot for your personal growth,” Rizzo said. “This summer is going to be very much about heightening my sense of independence and confidence, especially as a traveler.”

Rizzo anticipates a degree of culture shock that comes with traveling to any destination for the first time, but hopes to be able to make connections and engage in honest dialogue with locals, especially Ghanaian students.

“There’s nothing like connecting to someone from a totally different place,” Rizzo said. “You get to see that you share a common college student experience, and a common human experience.”

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