Today on the GoAbroad Blog we are pleased to feature a guest post from Jeremy Cohen–adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and founder & director of ThisWorldMusic. With his extensive travel experience to and around Ghana, Jeremy is eager to share his top six tips to prepare for a study abroad experience in Ghana. Whether you’ve already decided to travel to this culturally dynamic destination, or are considering it as a possibility, these tips will help to get you started in your planning!
Make sure to also check out part two of this post, where Jeremy discusses communication, what to pack, and gaining background knowledge on Ghana and its history.
Ghana is known as the ‘Gateway to Africa,’ and nowhere is this more evident than along its famed coastline, home to the capital city of Accra, historic Cape Coast Castle and the lush and culturally vibrant Volta Region — all highlighted destinations on the ThisWorldMusic/UMass Amherst Study in Ghana programs.
In 1957 Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. One of the safest, most well-developed countries on the continent, Ghana is an international tourist destination where English is the official national language. Its rich history and culture draws musicians, dancers, artists, ethnomusicologists and anthropologists from around the world to its beautiful, sun-kissed shores.
However, traveling to a developing country poses unique challenges, and Ghana is no exception. Here’s a list of 6 things we advise our program participants to do to prepare to study in Ghana.
1. Money and Transactions
Ghana is a cash-based economy. Credit cards are accepted in very few places, and the international transaction fees can be exorbitant. However, in order to check in for your flight, you may be asked to provide the credit card used to purchase the plane ticket. This is the physical card itself, not just the number.
Mastercard branded ATM cards will be rejected by most ATM machines in Ghana, so make sure yours features the Visa logo. If your ATM card is not on the Visa network, you have two options: i) go to your bank and request a Visa debit card; ii) purchase a Visa prepaid debit card. You’ll also need to change your PIN to 4 digits when you study in Ghana in order to use the ATM machines there.
Be sure to call your bank and credit card company before departing the U.S. to inform them of the exact dates you plan to study in Ghana. Oh, and no traveler’s cheques; most places don’t accept them these days.
For the best and most up-to-date information on vaccinations and immunizations needed to study in Ghana, make an appointment at a travel clinic. A travel doctor will know the current recommendations for every country, including Ghana.
That said, here are some basic guidelines:
- Yellow fever vaccination is required by Ghana to enter the country. Be sure to tuck proof of yellow fever vaccination into to your passport.
- Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, meningitis and typhoid are often recommended.
- You should be up-to-date with your basic, non-travel vaccinations: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), poliovirus, etc.
- Taking a malaria prophylaxis like Malarone (or its generic equivalent) or doxycycline is strongly advised. Malaria drugs can have some mild psychological side effects so inform your travel doctor of any pre-existing mental health condition and medications you are currently taking to treat it.
In general, though, follow a travel doctor’s instructions on all of these matters.
3. Travel Visa & Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
Obtaining a Visa:
A visa is required to study in Ghana. To apply, you’ll need a passport. If you need to get OR RENEW your passport (check and make sure!), you should take care of this ASAP as passport turnaround times can be horrendously long. Next, go to the Ghanaian Embassy’s website and carefully follow the visa application instructions. If you won’t be traveling outside of Ghana, the single entry visa fee of $60 will suffice. If you’re planning to return within two years, go ahead and apply for the $100 multiple entry visa.
The statement of financial support should be a printout of recent bank statement that clearly shows your name and evidence of money in an account. (Be sure to black out any account numbers.) Mail all paperwork (yes, including your passport) to the Ghanaian Embassy in a trackable envelope along with a second, prepaid, trackable, self-addressed return envelope. The application process usually takes about 1-3 weeks. Since the visa is only valid for 90 days, you will need to hold off on applying until 90 days before you plan to study in Ghana.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.):
Registering your trip with the State Department will help you in the event of emergency as the U.S. Embassy in Ghana will already know you’re in the country. This is recommended when you study in Ghana, but is also emerging as a best practice in the study abroad field in general. For U.S. residents, go here and click on ‘Create An Account’ to begin the process. Canadian residents go here.
Visit ThisWorldMusic’s website for more info on Study in Ghana programs. Enrollment is open to both students and the general public and program participants earn academic or professional credit through UMass Amherst.
Jeremy Cohen is a Boston-based percussionist, composer and educator. He is founder and director of ThisWorldMusic, which partners with educational institutions and arts organizations to offer innovative, hands-on cultural learning experiences. He is Adjunct Professor of Music at UMass Amherst where he designs and leads Study in Ghana programs. He holds a B.A. from the University of California Berkeley and a M.M. from The New England Conservatory of Music and studied traditional music and culture in Ghana.