March 3, 2017
Students in Professor Afe Adogame's travel course, Towards Understanding Other Cultures, traveled to Ghana for twelve days. They share thought-provoking and life-changing experiences from their days abroad.
Students credit travel course with sparking important and meaningful questions, clarifying their calls, and teaching them what it means to be human.
In Their Own Words
This course changed my life.
“This course changed my life. I learned an enormous amount about myself, other cultures, the global Presbyterian Church, women in leadership, and mental health and religion. The brilliant combination of tours, lectures, interactions with Ghanaian students and professors in everyday life gave deep access into Ghanaian culture. I now have a greater understanding of my own culture and identity. I learned to appreciate the intrinsic values woven within the American culture. As an African American, I now have a deeper understanding of what it means to have two cultures stitched together. I am incredibly grateful for everything that I learned during this travel course.”
—Danielle Gilchrist ’18 MDiv
I came face-to-face with the realization that the mission of God is everywhere.
“When I attended the travel course meeting during orientation week, I was hoping to learn how travel courses at Princeton Seminary function. Instead, I heard the voice of God pulling my heart to go on the trip to Ghana. I did not know why I was supposed to go, and during the weeks leading up to the trip I never received an answer about why God asked me to go. This feeling continued during the beginning of the trip when I constantly asked myself, ‘Why am I here?’ A few days into the trip the answer was revealed to me. I discovered that the church of Ghana is doing exactly what I felt called to do—bring missionaries to the United States. In that discovery, I came face-to-face with the realization that the mission of God is everywhere—whether or not I am actively looking for it.”
—JT Reece ’20 MDiv/MACEF
“I experienced many significant moments during the trip to Ghana. At the Victory Presbyterian Church, I saw the value of maintaining indigenous languages in Christian worship, which represent a powerful way of preserving African culture. The talks and discussions led by the lecturers differed from what is typically experienced in the west, but it nevertheless captured the African spirit of community. Finally, while the journey was meant to expose me to a new culture so that I may understand myself, it nevertheless made me see the best of Princeton Seminary through my fellow students in an African context.”
—Amidu Elabo, PhD candidate
“This course was an amazing experience. Though I’ve previously traveled to Africa, this trip to Ghana was unique because of the academic component. The lectures and interaction with faculty and students at the University of Ghana were rich and insightful. Standing in the Cape Coast Castle’s dungeon where countless slaves were raped, brutalized, or murdered made the atrocities they endured more profound than ever. It was a powerful yet indescribable feeling to freely stand and silently pray for the spirit of my ancestors in the river at Assin Manso, the place where slaves had their last bath prior to being dispersed in the Diaspora. I was blessed to forge close bonds with my Seminary peers. Dr. Adogame is a professor extraordinaire, highly regarded by his academic colleagues in Ghana. This dynamic experience would not have been the same without his presence and leadership.”
—Kerry-Ann DaCosta ’19 MDiv
I learned what it means to be human, to manifest a character of love and respect for neighbor, and to embody the imago dei (image of God).
“‘You cannot know yourself until you come here, because Ghana is home.’ That is what Grandma, one of our lecturers, said as we wrapped up our final night at the University of Ghana. This proverb sums up the experiences I have shared with my colleagues over what has become much more than just a Princeton Seminary course. During our twelve days abroad, through both our time spent in the classroom with world-class professors and our ventures around the country, I learned what it means to be human, to manifest a character of love and respect for neighbor, and to embody the imago dei (image of God). The relationship between Ghanaian Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions has reassured me that it is possible to coexist in harmony. The generosity and kindness of the Ghanaian people showed me that it is always possible to be hospitable. And the abundance of worship in everyday Ghanaian life has confirmed that the church is not dying; it’s just moving south. If you want to get to know God, your call, and yourself, consider making your way towards Accra, because you need to go home.”
—Thomas Dearduff ’18 MA(TS)
If the function of a good education is to stimulate important and meaningful questions, then Ghana taught me well.
“Studying in Ghana was a moving and thought-provoking experience. I went on the trip because I love to learn about and experience other cultures, and though I certainly did that, I also had several opportunities to think critically about my own culture. This was particularly powerful during class visits to the slave dungeons at Elmina and Cape Coast Castles—castles where churches were literally built on top of holding cells for those condemned to the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These visits forced me to reflect on my own culture’s ongoing struggle to acknowledge our history of slavery and racial oppression; they made me think about reparations—whether or not they were possible, how they might be made centuries down the line, and what the role of confession and forgiveness could look like in light of such evil. The trip to Ghana did not provide clear answers about any of this, but if the function of a good education is to stimulate important and meaningful questions, then Ghana taught me well, and I am forever changed and grateful for the relationships that grew out of the experiences I had there.”
—Jessica Rigel ’18 MDiv/MACEF
The experience has reaffirmed my call to ministry, assuring that as I continue to answer “yes” to that call, God will clear the path so that I can follow, learn, and grow.
“Traveling to Ghana has proven to be more than what I expected. I expected world-class professors. We had that in Dr. Adogame and the amazing team of people who agreed to lecture for us while at the University of Ghana. What I didn’t expect was to be privy to a sort of academic family, where elders are revered, new leaders are cheered on, and growing academicians are supported and corrected in love. I expected to see many important and historical sites during our stay. I could not have expected to be changed spiritually by those visits. Cleansing myself in the same river that my ancestors bathed in just before being sent away, climbing the lighthouse that overlooks the shores where those ancestors departed and left behind their families and their dreams, and being welcomed home by family on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean—these are the moments that shake your core. This new line of thought and consciousness, this spiritual awareness could not have been expected. More than anything, the experience has reaffirmed my call to ministry, assuring that as I continue to answer ‘yes’ to that call, God will clear the path so that I can follow, learn, and grow.”
—Sheena Rolle ’18 MDiv
The trip to Ghana gave me the pride to understand the wealth of my African heritage.
“I ventured on this travel course primarily to get to know myself better by understanding other cultures. The intensive lectures, discussions, and interactions with the lecturers and students at the University of Ghana, coupled with the tour of Accra and its historical sites was a foundational moment in our endeavors. Our first-hand encounter with the Akan culture at the Manhyia Palace, the tour of Kumasi, and witnessing the mourning of the Queen mother’s death helped me learn the pride of African indigeneity. Similarly, the pilgrimage to the Last Bath river in Assin Manso and the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles was a life-changing experience, which renewed my commitment to social justice. In a nutshell, the trip to Ghana gave me the pride to understand the wealth of my African heritage.”
—Kenneth Ofula ’18 MA(TS)