For the first time this summer, Manhattan College students will be traveling to Ghana through a new study abroad program.
From June 7 to 20, students will travel to Ghana and earn credit for a 300 level religion class. The class is titled “African Christianity – The Christian Experience in Ghana” and was proposed by Jawanza Clark, Ph.D. and professor of religious studies.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about Africa,” Clark said. “We sort of have a vision of what Africa is, what it means and who Africans are but sometimes that’s disconnected from fact and reality.”
Clark hopes that by bringing students to the actual area that they will be learning about, students will be able to understand African cultures and religions more easily.
About 17 students attended the first informational meeting for the Ghana program last Wednesday, Feb. 3, but Clark says an additional four others emailed him to express interest.
Kevin Gschwend, the study abroad coordinator, said that he was pleased with the turnout for the first meeting because starting a study abroad program from scratch can be challenging.
“Gauging the students’ interest is hard because you don’t know what the turnouts are going to be like,” Gschwend said.
In order for the program to run, Gschwend said he aims to have between eight and 12 students sign up.
Allie Vaccaro, sophomore and elementary education major, attended the meeting and plans on going to Ghana in June.
“Going to Africa has always been a dream of mine, so as soon as I saw the flyer I knew I just had to go,” Vaccaro said. “I’m very eager to dive into the culture and explore a dream destination of mine.”
During the two weeks, students will visit important sites in Africa like a slave castle, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, the W.E.B. Dubois center and even attend a funeral.
“Funerals and death are viewed differently there. It’s actually very festive,” Clark said. “That will give us the opportunity to talk about what death means there versus how we talk about death in the West.”
Students will also have the opportunity to visit beaches in Ghana, the national park, and see a Ghanaian dance troupe performance.
Clark said that he hopes this program will allow students to see Africa in a new light.
“Anything that is unfamiliar, there tends to be a lot of concerns. I just want to disabuse the stereotypes,” Clark said.
The Ghana program will cost about $4400 and includes transportation, most meals and tuition.
“You have to get students interested in something they’ve never done,” Gschwend said. “I think the way I’ve tried to market that is that there are a lot of opportunities to travel to Europe for vacations. But not a lot of people take the opportunity to go to Africa, so why not now?”