For sixteen School of Journalism and Communication students, school did not end with their final exams. Two graduate students and 14 undergraduates joined professors Leslie Steeves and Ed Madison for a six-week study abroad program in Ghana.
Each year the SOJC selects a handful of students for internships across various media outlets in the city of Accra. The internships are provided in conjunction with the Accra-based “Media in Ghana” program at the University of Ghana School of Communication, and offer participants the opportunity to learn firsthand about Ghana’s media, as well as the country’s history, culture and development challenges.
The program began in 1999 in partnership with the University of Kansas. In 2002 UO SOJC students outnumbered Kansas students six to one, and the Kansas partnership dissolved in 2003. The SOJC established its own program in 2004.
Steeves, who has led the program since its inception, works to place each student at an internship specific to their major, whether that is journalism, electronic media, public relations, advertising or communication studies.
During her tenure, Steeves has seen how transformational the students’ immersion in another culture can be and looks forward to how their attitudes and preconceptions change.
“As media are increasingly globalized, experiencing media in a very different cultural context broadens our students’ perspective,” Steeves said. “Being immersed in internships quickly shows them that the principles and perspectives they learn in the J-School aren’t necessarily universal or easily transferable.”
Senior Jeff Mercado, who is studying broadcast journalism, lives with the other 15 students in house in Ghana’s capital, Accra, not far from the University of Ghana campus. He has found the experience just as Steeve’s predicted.
“What has been challenging is separating my preconceived ideas about Africa and learning to adopt Ghanaian culture for what it is,” Mercado said. “My favorite thing so far has been speaking with people. Everyone here is so welcoming and full of joy.”
Mercado recently contributed to the Ghana Blog — where the sixteen students share their travel experiences — offering a multimedia piece on his first day at work at Metro TV in Accra
SOJC senior in advertising Madeline Culhane’s recent blog post about trying to get to her internship at Lentis Advertising captures the challenges of living and working abroad:
“Julianne [Parker] perfectly summed up the stages of studying abroad: there’s the honeymoon stage at the beginning, when everything is so new and exciting. Then after a week or two, you hit and wall and between the humidity, bug bites, power outages and threat of traveler’s sickness, the novelty begins to wear off. After a few days of irritation and complaining, you eventually get over it and settle back in. You never quite reach that honeymoon stage again but you relax into a comfortable routine.”
In addition to Steeves and Madison, Dr. Michael Williams serves as the on-site advisor and Eric Nyarko serves as the group’s bus driver and cultural resource. Considering the vast differences in culture the aspiring journalists could experience, they will likely welcome all the advice they can get.
Casey Pechan, PR, ’14