Changing Direction: How a summer in Ghana changed a life

To make a long story (that could fill a book) really short: My roommate Jojo and I studied abroad along with fellow students from the Honors College in Ghana, West Africa during the summer of 2011, my sophomore year of college. It was honestly not high on my list of places I wanted to study abroad, my sights were set on Europe, but that didn’t work out much to my disappointment at the time. Little did I know how ending up in Ghana would change the course of the rest of my life!

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While studying abroad with Jojo, other students and faculty, I fell in love with everything about Ghana over the course of the summer. I loved the people, the food (well, most of it), the culture, and all the new experiences. My summer was filled with volunteering, a group project, and excursions around the country. I volunteered at a local hospital since I was a nursing student and at Challenging Heights doing an after-school program with the kids. It was extremely hard to leave at the end of the summer and I knew I definitely wanted to come back again someday. I had no idea how soon it would actually be though.

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After graduating from GVSU with my BSN I was presented with an incredible opportunity to return to Ghana and work for Africa Atlantic Farm. I spent six months working as a community health nurse in the handful of small villages surrounding the farm across Lake Volta in a very rural area. I became best friends with the local driver for our company, Eben. We spent many hours in the car together when I had to travel between the farm and our company office in the capitol city. I would ride along with him when he had to run errands, he would help me navigate my way thru the local markets to buy food, he taught me Twi (the local language), and we did a lot of laughing together as we learned more about each other’s cultures.

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To keep this brief: We fell in love, but I had to leave at the end of the year, so he applied for a visa to visit the USA. It took over a year for all of Eben’s paperwork to be processed, during which we dated international long distance until he was finally able to move here.

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We have now been happily married for over 4 years and have a beautiful 2 year old daughter, Aliza. We try to get back to Ghana every year or two to visit. We most recently went back January thru March of this year to bring our daughter there for the first time. It was also very special because it was the first time Eben’s family, who all still live in Ghana, got to meet our daughter. We are hoping to move back and live there someday.

Ghana is such a huge part of my life story now, and it all started with studying abroad at GVSU!

~ Amber (Hop) Amankwah, GVSU Class of 2013

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