UCLA Affiliation: Current Faculty or Staff
Country of Service: Ghana
I taught at the Ghana Institute of Journalism in Accra.
We were the first group to train in-country. When we arrived in Accra, we were driven to Winneba, where we spent a month adjusting to the heat, the mosquitoes, the food, and the psychological games the staff played with us. We didn’t know it at the time, but found out later, that when the huge bowl of rice was placed in the center of the table, we were being observed: who went for it first, who shared, who waited. Then we spent two weeks in different villages, teaching at middle schools, living with families. Very eye-opening and memorable. That’s when I was asked if I thought I had “tact.” Because my assignment was to teach at the Institute of Journalism, the only such institute in Africa: students who attended came from all over the continent, and would become editors and broadcasters when they graduated. If I said anything controversial that might get written about in the newspapers, I was told, the only thing the PC could do was get me out of the country. I loved the challenge. And didn’t censor myself. While there I actually got to introduce the President of the country (Busia) who came to speak. I spent three years there, getting to know many of my students (some of whom I am still in touch with today, reading and writing a lot, and traveling whenever I had the chance. I’ve never stopped writing about Ghana. The experience was extraordinary. I encourage my students today at UCLA to consider the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps is unlike any other life experience: you’re put in a situation where you confront your limits. You mature rather quickly, and you realize that no matter how much you give of yourself, you’re getting back a whole lot more.