Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

West Africa Term, expanding cultural knowledge

Many people have pre-conceived notions of cultures they have never been exposed to, however not all these stereotypes may turn out to be true. Sometimes talking to someone completely different from you can make you realize that you are just alike. That is what Dr. Dan Corts, professor of Psychology, believes is one of the best parts of going abroad.
26 students and 3 faculty will be leaving for West Africa on December 28. These students, along with their professors, will embark on a learning experience as they engage in West African culture over the course of eight weeks.
“I think a lot of people in the United States, very much so, live in a bubble that the U.S. is great and fabulous, and nothing outside of the United States matters; which is not entirely true. We’ve kind of got that one single story, especially of Africa and West Africa, where it’s all just people who are in so much poverty, and everybody is dying, and everybody has AIDS, and that is not the case,” junior Mary Maray said.
Over the course of the foreign term, these students will visit a collection of places including the capital of Ghana, Accra, where they will complete five week internships while staying in homestays. According to Corts, the students will be living with families within Accra and getting to know them.
West Africa term seeks to “expand and challenge stereotypes of Africans and Africa,” senior Jamie Schultz said.
“I am really excited about experiencing all the different cultures and the people that we are going to get to interact with,” Maray said.
According to Corts, this trip is about seeing a different part of the world. “When you are in a very different kind of place it actually makes you think about where you are from in a very different way,” Corts said.
According to Schultz, the media has played a role in portraying the poverty in Africa as barbaric. “It is crucial, as Americans, to eliminate these dividing and destructive thoughts,” Schultz said.
The students took a graphic design class, an African art class, and a cultural psychology class in the first three weeks of the term. Schultz thinks these classes have helped to prepare her and her classmates to go into West Africa with an open mind.
Maray has enjoyed the cultural psychology class and learning about psychology in a new way. “We’ve been talking about weird culture and how the United States is western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic; and that we are such a small population but we do so much of the research in the world on basic psychological processes, but we can’t generalize that to everybody in Africa,” Maray said.
According to Dr. Vicki Phipps, professor of art and graphic design, the West Africa term graphic design class aimed to explore culture and design. The course has students, “ask challenging questions as to the role design plays in shaping culture and investigate how ideas can and do influence our everyday life,” Phipps said.
The final project of the graphic design class challenged students to be creative in making three handmade soccer balls from raw materials. Schultz enjoyed the process of making the soccer balls with her partner, junior Brianna Snead.
“The project demonstrated to Brianna and I that making soccer balls by hand is a lot more gratifying than buying one at the store. On the other hand, we did it out of want and not necessity. We created art together that we are proud of. Americans are not as resourceful as Africans and it is hard to create something by hand when we are not used to it,” Schultz said.

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West Africa Term, expanding cultural knowledge