Service Learning is one of the most dynamic areas within the field of international education. These days, students who apply for study abroad programs are less interested in just sitting in classrooms for long hours or simply taking long field trips to visit the wide variety of historical and contemporary sites most countries have to offer. Instead, students who study abroad today are more interested in learning by doing, i.e., working in areas related to their academic interests and/or contributing their time, talent, knowledge and labour towards helping communities help themselves. Moreover, by working alongside their foreign counterparts and/or other local residents in foreign lands, students are better able to immerse themselves, culturally, into the countries they visit.
For students interested in participating in a service-learning program, the Aya Centre can arrange both the classes and the related internship experiences. Ghana is an ideal location for this model of academic training because of its immense socio-economic challenges in a variety of areas—including health, education, environment, gender, youth, and many others. What better way for students to learn what they are studying in their books than by doing it in the field?
Below are a two unedited ‘testimonials’ from students who recently interned at local institutions in Ghana, arranged by the Aya Centre, during their semester abroad.
“Overall, I think that People’s Dialogue’s contribution to me was inevitably far greater than mine to them. Some of my most genuine interactions with Ghanaians took place through my internship; from community meetings to praying at the mosque and celebrating the Sala with my bosses to just listening to them discuss projects and politics. It has been so exciting and reassuring to see ‘development’ achieved through such tangible, grassroots efforts, and it’s helped to shed some light on my own studies. It is in changing the capacities of the individuals that positive social change can be achieved, and although funding is crucial and often a major obstacle for many of these smaller, grassroots organizations, throwing money at a country is not the way to assist it. It is through my experiences studying and witnessing development at work throughout Ghana and specifically at People’s Dialogue, that I feel a renewed confidence in the line of work that I have chosen, and in the legitimacy and sustainability of the field as a whole.”
- Kelly Jacques
“Nestled in the mango groves in a rural community north of Accra lies a clinic where I was lucky enough to intern. It is here at this clinic where I have learned so much about development, as I have seen the challenges that stem from development played out in the practices and policies of the clinic, which is a microcosm of the larger Ghana Health Service. I have also thought about my own history as a citizen of a developed country, and the history of that country, in understanding by comparison how challenging the realities of being a developing nation can be. Overall, the experience I had at the clinic was a great one. I learned about something other than what I have studied at my university, but this allowed me to look at the health care system and development with a sociological perspective.” – Rachel Mocker, The College of New Jersey
- Rachel Mocker,
The College of New Jersey