My experience in Ghana, Takoradi taught me so much that you just cannot learn in a lecture hall. It was emotional, inspiring, frustrating but most importantly absolutely wonderful.
There are not many international opportunities for Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) students especially for my clinical area of interest which was complex needs and specialist schools. Work the World were able to adapt one of their placements to suit my learning objectives and aims as an SLT student. I liked the idea of staying in a house with other students from other healthcare courses and the team at Work the World were so supportive even before I had officially applied for the placement – just a few of the reasons why I chose Work the World.
My placement in a special needs school in Takoradi wasn’t your conventional SLT placement that you might experience back home. There was no SLT that visited the school to provide assessments or to deliver therapy or advice to the teachers about communication. In fact, some teachers did not know what a Speech and Language Therapist was! So although I was not involved in conventional clinics, I learnt things that in my opinion are much more valuable. I learnt how to communicate despite a language barrier; I learnt how to be part of a team with others who have very different beliefs to my own but above all, I learnt the importance of showing love and compassion to others.
As I got out of the taxi every morning I was met by a crowd of excited, smiley students, anxious to welcome me back for a new day.
Experiencing the education system in a developing country can be a culture shock. Rather than focusing on academic values and curriculae, the school takes a life skills based approach teaching the students vocational trades that they can use into adulthood. Despite having very limited resources by western standards, the young people approach their education with an infectious joy and vigour. Dance, music and singing punctuated each and every day – it made getting up at 6am no chore! As I got out of the taxi every morning I was met by a crowd of excited, smiley students, anxious to welcome me back for a new day.
While at the school I had the opportunity to join the students and staff in taking part in a parade to raise community awareness of disability and mental health. One of the stand out moments for me was watching a traditional African dance performance by students from the local School for the Deaf. Although everyone had different placements we all came together one day to organise a sports day at the school which was brilliant fun!
During my placement I was able to teach English lessons, help with daily routines giving medication and breakfast, and experience their worship ceremonies which are a huge part of their culture – just to name a few things!
Now to talk about the big blue house which all the students lived in together while in Takoradi. Although we all had demanding placements we still had time to relax by the pool in the late afternoons and evenings or take trips into the town or to the beach. Thursday nights in the house were BBQ night - everyone’s favourite night – filled with singing, dancing, drumming and the most flavoursome local food cooked by the house’s amazing chef!
The Work the World team at the house were so supportive and their door was always open if you had a tough day on placement. At the weekends you were able to take trips around Ghana and the team were always on hand to offer their advice. I was able to visit Kakum National Park and sleep in a treehouse; I went on safari at Mole National Park and saw elephants no more than a few metres away from me. We went horse riding around Lake Bosomtwe and bathed in Kintampo Waterfalls!
I have gained skills, friends and memories that will stay with me forever. To anyone considering taking an overseas placement, my advice would be to just go for it, throw yourself into the culture and observe everything possible on your placement - don’t judge, just learn!