Welcome back! Today on GoAbroad, we feature Part Two of a guest post from Jeremy Cohen, adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and founder & director of ThisWorldMusic. If you’re just joining us, you can check out Part One to learn about money and transactions, vaccinations/immunizations and how to get a travel visa to study in Ghana.
Those recommendations, along with the ones below, are just some of the many ways that ThisWorldMusic/UMass Amherst helps to prepare participants for the Study in Ghana program!
Even on the off chance that your mobile phone operates on the same same frequency band as the major carriers in West Africa (unlikely), you would still need to get your phone "unlocked" in order to use it there. In other words, leave your fancy smartphone at home and plunk down the $30 USD or so for a phone when you arrive in Ghana. Since there are no annual or monthly contracts, you simply purchase prepaid units—scratch cards which reveal a code to enter into your phone—at the seemingly ubiquitous kiosks. Rates fluctuate somewhat, but outgoing texts to North America usually hover around 10¢ per message, while outgoing calls are 10-15¢ per minute. All incoming calls and texts to your Ghanaian mobile phone are free.
The best and most convenient way for friends and family to call your Ghanaian cell phone is through a company called Rebtel. Not only is Rebtel cheaper than Skype for calling West Africa (18.9¢/minute versus 29¢/minute, last I checked), it is way more convenient. Let's say a friend in NYC wants to call you in Ghana to check in. Rebtel creates a local NYC number (e.g., 212-555-555) for each of her international contacts, allowing her to call you from a cell phone.
You can find internet cafés when you study in Ghana, but consider yourself warned about the often slow connection speeds. VodaFone, a major wireless carrier, has recently opened a chain of internet cafés that is reputed to be quite fast. If you're going to be studying in Ghana for a while and plan on bringing a laptop, you might want to consider purchasing a USB modem once you're there. These modems connect your computer to the internet using a mobile phone network signal. The brand of USB modem you buy depends on which company has the strongest network in the area where you’ll be spending the most time.
5. Packing Smart
As every seasoned traveler knows, packing smart can mean the difference between the study abroad experience of a lifetime and a whole lot of headache. And while it seems that each year brings a new leap forward in Ghana’s infrastructure, procuring certain travel necessities can still sometimes prove difficult. For packing tips, check out 'Top 10 Things to Pack for Study Abroad in Ghana.'
6. Learn About Ghana
A little knowledge goes a long way! Before studying in Ghana, take the time to familiarize yourself with the country, its people and culture. Here are a few resources to get you started:
- “Ghana": Bradt guidebook by Philip Briggs
- "All God's Children Need Travelin' Shoes" by Maya Angelou
- Centers for Disease Control Health Information for Travelers to Ghana
- New York Times Ghana compilation blog
- CIA - The World Factbook - Ghana
- Info on Ghana's districts/regions
- Ghana news
Now that you’re ready to study in Ghana like a pro, let’s get going! Check back for future posts on the coolest things to do when you study abroad in Ghana, including where to eat, drink, dance, listen to West African music and relax.
Want to learn more? Check out ThisWorldMusic's Study in Ghana program. 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 directs the study abroad program in Ghana, West Africa. He holds a B.A. from the University of California Berkeley and a M.M. from The New England Conservatory of Music and studied music, arts and culture in Africa.