Neo is from San Diego, California, and studied History and Anthropology in college. He volunteered teaching children in Ghana through World Endeavors.
How was your experience in Ghana?
Even though I was teaching in Ghana I felt like I was a student in a classroom. I found out many things about myself and the world around me.
Did you have any reservations before leaving for Ghana?
No, because I had been doing research on Ghana for several months before deciding to go.
What were your first impressions about Ghana?
I had never been abroad before, and going to Ghana as my first time out of the country surprised even me. My first day in Ghana was just a huge culture shock. My first thought was “what did I get myself into?”, but a few days later it felt like I had completely adjusted to everything. By my last day I was sad to be leaving all my friends behind in Ghana.
What was your volunteer placement like?
I walked 2 miles to the school with the kids and one other volunteer everyday. In the school I went around from classroom to classroom teaching math, English, art, and computers, as well as getting to know all the kids and teachers. The kids always wanted to learn more, even after school was over.
How did you choose this specific program?
I wanted to help and make a difference in the world. It was my first time out of the country and I felt Ghana was one of the safer countries to volunteer in. I choose World Endeavors after looking at a number of different volunteering companies and World Endeavors looked like the one that offered the most help while in the country, such as meals, airport pick up, and a host family.
How did you get around?
90% of my time was spent walking from place to place and 10% taking the tro tro (local bus system) to the local stores and into town from the village.
What did you do in your free time?
Most weekends I would travel into downtown Kumasi and try to get to know the culture better. I got to travel to Cape Coast and Elmina Castle with the school on a field trip. I went to Manhyia Palace Museum as well.
My favorite thing was getting to know all the customs as well as going to Elmina and Cape Coast castles. I also enjoyed getting to know all the people.
What was the food like in Ghana?
The typical meal was usually rice and some kind of traditional stew, it is also customary in Ghana to eat with your hands. My least favorite meal was the fish stew. It was basically a whole cooked fish with the eyes still in it with a side of vegetables and usually rice (whoa). My favorite meal was the peanut soup. It was spicy and was eaten with rice.
Do you believe your time in Ghana impacted your future career goals?
Since being back home in the U.S. I have started a new semester in college. This time abroad I feel really opened my eyes and really gave me a whole new perspective on life.
My time in Ghana actually made me change my major in college to International Business with a minor in photography. This trip was just the beginning of my travels abroad; I now wish to travel the world being a photographer. I plan on taking trips abroad every year.
What advice would you give to someone traveling abroad?
Traveling abroad is the best lesson you can have in life. It will open your eyes and give you a new insight on the world around you. Always have an open mind and realize you can’t change the world at once.
Favorite stories you love to tell about your time abroad:
When I first arrived in the village all of the kids ran up to me and were touching my skin because they had never seen anyone like me before and were just amazed at how I looked. I was the first African-American in that village.
My favorite moment was dancing in the rain with all of my host family and friends. They really like to dance and like seeing the volunteers dance even more.
Number one challenge about being abroad:
My number one challenge living abroad was having no running water. The small villages in Ghana don’t have running water, so I had to take a shower with a bucket of water.
Most important thing you gained from your time abroad:
An understanding of how the world works outside of the U.S. and patience: I couldn’t make everything better at once.
Anything you learned about yourself while in Ghana?
I discovered that I am very adventurous and I’m able to do things that I didn’t know I was capable of.