International Education

Students glean insight into life and health in Ghana

Ghana Study Abroad

OU students with medical team members of the neonatal intensive care unit at Seventh Day Adventist hospital in Sunyani, Ghana.

icon of a calendarJune 28, 2022

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Students glean insight into life and health in Ghana
Ghana Study Abroad

A group of Oakland University students recently traveled to the West African country of Ghana for an immersive study abroad that blended the virtues of self-discovery and service-learning. 

Ghana Study Abroad

OU students with medical team members at Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Sunyani, Ghana.

For more than three weeks, students shadowed doctors and nurses at a local hospital and community rehabilitation clinic, interacted with students at a school for children with disabilities, shared food and fun with a local host family, and visited historical sites including Elmina Castle and the W.E.B. Dubois Center for Pan-African Culture. 

The experience was part of OU’s Global Health and Social Issues (PH4750/5750) course led by Dr. Kwame Sakyi, in collaboration with the Center for Learning and Childhood Development-Ghana, a nonprofit that designs and implements solutions to promote children's survival and development.

“Oakland worked on an agreement for them to host the students,” said Dr. Sakyi, the Center’s co-founder and director, and an assistant professor of Public and Environmental Wellness at OU. “The hospital where the students worked is located in the city where I grew up, so I knew friends who were friends with health workers at the hospital.” 

Elijah Olsen

Elijah Olsen cradles a newborn at Seventh Day Adventist Hospital.

Dr. Sakyi designed the course to help students experience a new culture and gain perspectives about life, the world and careers in health. Students also got an up-close look at the challenges of addressing global health and development issues in resource-limited settings.

Elijah Olsen, a second-year Master of Public Health student, counts his experiences at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital and Nyamaa Special School in Sunyani among the most memorable of his time in Ghana. 

“It’s rare that you get opportunities to go behind the scenes at a hospital, even into the surgery room, or share vocational skills with children with developmental disabilities,” he said. “I think I learned something every day during the study abroad in Ghana – each experience was rich with impact and insight.” 

Health sciences major Dea Arrsi took part in the study abroad to deepen her understanding of health care around the world and prepare for a career as a doctor.

“I chose to visit Ghana because I wanted to see how health care works in Africa and because media portrays Africa in a way that intrigued me to know more about how it compares to the U.S.,” said Arrsi, an Albania native and daughter of health clinicians. “I have not only lived in the U.S. throughout my life so experiencing health care in different countries will help me in my career in the future.”

Dea Arrsi

Dea Arrsi interacts with a child at the Center for Learning and Childhood Development Mobile Clinic, which provides therapy services for children with disabilities. 

While in Ghana, the group also spent a day with a host family of seven, cooking traditional Ghanaian dishes and playing games with the children.

“Tag and hacky sack were our favorites,” Olsen shared, adding that living in Ghana dispelled many false ideas people have about Africa.

“Here in the United States, we often portray – and accept – Africa as a sad, starving continent, filled with people that need our help. Ghana broke that misconception for me,” he said. “Ghanaians are generally boisterous people, never in a hurry, and brimming with life and wisdom.” 

Elijah Olsen

Olsen helps a boy weave a table mat using yarn and a frame during a vocational skills day at Nyamaa Special School.

For Arrsi, studying abroad sparked many moments of introspection, particularly working with children with disabilities. 

“While being at the school with these little kids, I reflected so much with myself. I think a lot of personality traits that I have but didn’t really show before came to light,” she said. “One of the days we got the chance to visit a clinic that helps kids with different disabilities with therapy. Seeing these beautiful children suffer, made me so emotional, humble and appreciative of the life I have and also my health. I learned that nothing else in life is important compared to our health and our wellbeing.”

Both students whole-heartedly recommend studying abroad to others. Olsen called his time in Ghana the highlight of his academic career and life. 

Dea Arrsi

Arrsi is pictured with children at Ridge Elementary School in Sunyani, Ghana.

“Studying abroad is a worthwhile experience with much to teach about culture, life and self,” he said.

Arrsi added that studying abroad has the power to change one’s perceptions forever.

“I hope that this particular study abroad in Ghana will continue to happen every year, and I would recommend people from different majors to join because we did not just learn about health care there,” she said. “Students who are interested in education, history or public health should definitely consider going and they won’t be disappointed by the new things they’ll learn and how much they will experience.”  

The students received financial support from the Provost’s office, School of Health Sciences Dean's office, International Education office and the Patrick Missodey Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities, contact OU’s International Education office at or visit the website at

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