For Allison Fantz, a Marymount University junior from Springfield, a weeklong spring study abroad experience in the West African country of Ghana was an eye-opener.
Accra is a city of wealth and development alongside abject poverty, and just like any city in the U.S. there were different neighborhoods that visually represented this inequality, Fantz said. The difference was that the inequality was more extreme.
She and her peers were driven past sleek national landmarks such as the Flagstaff House, which serves as the presidential palace, a modern football stadium and the National Theatre, and just five miles away, an open-guttered slum.
Fantz and 15 other MU students were in Ghana from March 9-17 as part of a semester-long course, The Economics of Poverty, taught by Dr. Brian Hollar, assistant professor and director of Marymounts Economics Program.
Spending a few hours in a place is often more insightful than reading many books, Hollar said. Travel is a tremendous complement to in-class experience and deepens the lessons discussed in class.
He said Ghana is a relatively safe, stable, and accessible English-speaking country that provided a good first-experience in Africa. In the past, he has taken students to Panama and the Czech Republic. Next spring he plans to take a group to Havana, Cuba.
My students loved the music, dancing, and culture of Ghana, he said. Nearly all the people we encountered were friendly and kind. We visited several sites connected to the Atlantic slave trade that were incredibly sobering and meaningful experiences.
He said the opportunity for students to volunteer at a school in an economically poor region of Accra was powerful.
My students absolutely loved working with the kids, he said.
Their host was the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Accra. The group visited many Non-Governmental Organizations doing development and heard lectures at the 40,000-student University of Ghana.
Fantz said her Marymount education has shown her how interconnected and complex the world really is. The class reinforced that idea with every lecture and tour and person she met who had a relative in the United States.
A lot of times, I would learn new things about interconnectedness that werent necessarily as cheerful, she said, such as visiting the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and museum and learning the role the U.S. played in the military coup that overthrew independent Ghanas first president, or experiencing the darkness of the slave dungeons at Cape Coast and hearing from the tour guide how those horrendous crimes still affect the country today.
In total, 164 students went abroad over spring break (102 undergraduates and 62 graduate students) through Marymounts Center for Global Education. Other three-credit, semester-long Global Classroom series courses included the following international field experiences:
Global Inequality and Community Development; Havana, Cuba
Major Women Writers; London and Bath, England
Renaissance and the Reformation; Florence, Italy
Global Information Technology; Prague, Czech Republic
The Mystery of the Church; Rome, Italy
Four graduate courses were also offered:
School Counseling Practices in a Global Setting; Rome, Italy
Community-based Global Field Experience; Panama City, Panama
Global Community Based Project: STEM Event; Belfast, Northern Ireland
Physical Therapy Global Service Learning in Masaya; Nicaragua
Sixteen Marymount University students were in Ghana from March 9-17 as part of a semester-long course, The Economics of Poverty, taught by Dr. Brian Hollar, assistant professor and director of Marymounts Economics Program. The experience included a walk through a market in Nima, a poorer region of the capital city of Accra.
Students walk on a rope bridge high above the trees in Kakum National Park. Hollar said Ghana is a relatively safe, stable, and accessible English-speaking country that provides a good first-experience in Africa.
The group had a very sobering visit to Cape Coast Castle, a fortress used by the British to imprison slaves before their transport across the Atlantic.
Marymount students Ashton Walker and Maggie Munro taught students in a class at a school in Nima.