Nineteen SUNY Oneonta students experienced the everyday reality of work in the developing world through an internship program in Accra, Ghana,in January. The internships were a new addition to a learn-and-serve program in Ghana facilitated by faculty from the college’s Department of Africana and Latino Studies for the past eight years.
The students, whose majors are as varied as Education, Music Industry, Criminal Justice, Communications, History and Philosophy, spent one week as unpaid interns at various sites in Ghana’s capital city, including T.V. Africa, United Faith Preparatory School, the Ghana Police Service, Pathfinder and King of Kings orphanages, and Brother to Brother in Unity and Diversity, a community health NGO.
They learned to negotiate the expectations and rules of Ghanaian offices, schools and social service agencies — as well as the ways of neighborhood chop bars, hostels, football pitches and tro-tros (taxi vans) — during the 2½-week trip, which included visits to cultural and historical sites and lectures on African literature, dance, film and history.
“We got to literally live like Ghanaians,” said Prissly Mena, a junior majoring in Mass Communications. Mena wore a business suit made of kente cloth and adopted a local name, Afiya, for her internship at T.V. Africa, where she worked in all three of the station’s departments: camera, sound and audio, and master control.
Mena had done two internships before — at Sirius radio and MTV — but she said getting an inside look at a TV station in another culture was “mind-blowing.” “Everything was completely different: the structure, the relationships, the hierarchy — I was surprised that women were the most dominant in the entire organization.”
She said she hopes the trip will be the first of many experiences abroad. “It really opened the door,” she said. “It made me wonder, `How does Italy run its TV stations? How does Portugal? How does Spain? How does Australia?’ I hope to have the chance to immerse myself in these and other cultures.”