Photo Credit: Christina Jane
The Black Expat: 'Ghana Captivates Black Diasporans Almost Immediately'
Christina Jane is a 21-year-old travel blogger, freelance writer, and graduate student majoring in international relations. Originally from Fort Myers, Florida, she is currently based in Accra, Ghana. She moved to the West African nation in August to begin her graduate program.
Having visited Ghana for the first time in 2019 while studying abroad in Accra for two months, Christina absolutely fell in love with the atmosphere. She was ending her freshman year as an undergraduate and hated college at the time. Attending an HBCU, Christina had entered college hoping to experience the human connection she’d always sought.
“I thought I would have the opportunity to finally experience that feeling, being that I was around people who looked like me for the first time in my life,” said Christina, “but it just didn’t work out like that.”
Visiting Ghana, however, allowed her to tap into the human connection she was missing from college. For the first time, she found herself in an environment where people genuinely cared about each others’ well-being.
“In Ghana, If someone asks you how you’re doing, it’s not just a conversation holder; they genuinely want to get to know you and make sure you are doing well. It was so easy to form relationships and make meaningful connections. Most people I met in 2019, I kept in touch with throughout the two years I was back in the States. It was the best two months of my life.”
Ghana also holds a special place in Christina’s heart because it was the first country that kick started her solo travel journey. As someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, there once was a time where she could not do anything alone due to the fear of what other people would think about her. Christina first experienced anxiety at the age of 16 and was officially diagnosed during her sophomore year of college, leading to her being on three different medications for a year.
“In the peak period of my depression, at 19 years old, I took my second solo trip to Bali and Thailand for two weeks. I wasn’t scared or nervous, as at the time I had nothing to lose. From then on, I’ve been unstoppable and have no problem booking solo trips.”
“Every day is hard; it’s just less hard abroad. I feel free, limitless, and powerful. The way people tend to live in other countries embodies a slower pace of life and that helps my anxiety a lot. Things that would usually spike my anxiety at home, have no place in my everyday life abroad because of how peaceful my surroundings are.”
Having the chance to complete her master’s in international relations for free at any U.S.-based institution through the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship, Christina jumped at the opportunity to do so in Ghana, back where her travel journey started.
To say she loves the country would be an understatement. Coming from a predominantly white neighborhood in Florida, being able to thrive in an environment with people that look like her and not have to think about racism is a priceless experience. A peaceful and fairly easy to navigate country, Christina wakes up every day excited to see where the day will take her, and each day is different.”
“Ghana captivates diasporans almost immediately, and it’s not hard to see why. I can literally meet someone at 11 a.m. at the mall and be having dinner with them the same day at 7 p.m. like we’ve known each other forever. That human connection, genuine respect, and openness is what I crave, and I get that so easily here in Ghana.”
As a woman who has grown and come so far, refusing to let her anxiety control her life, much like a flower, Christina has been able to bloom wherever she is planted. Constantly being challenged and pushed out of her comfort zone, in Ghana, she continues to blossom.
“I’ve been invited to speak on education abroad panels and work with various organizations across Ghana. People hand me opportunities all the time that I would shy away from in the States due to imposter syndrome, then walk me through to make sure I succeed at whatever the task is.”
“The people in Ghana are extremely understanding and hardworking. They push me to be my best self. Even my professors are encouraging in a way I have never experienced in the States. The tribe I am building around me and the grace that has been extended to me while trying to find my footing in Ghana is what has been helping me to thrive in my own way. I’m surrounded by people who want to see me win in life on a personal level and that keeps me going every day.”
An ongoing learning experience, Christina is enjoying the rich culture of the motherland. From the terminology used to the reasoning behind certain patterns being worn for specific occasions, Christina says things in Ghana always tend to have a deeper, underlying meaning.
“This can also apply to why certain foods are eaten together. Everywhere, from the clothing to the food, the culture is present and learning about it is so fascinating.”
Adapting to the culture also means getting used to changes such as the bargaining culture, eating with her hands, and making sure to use her right hand to hand things to people.
“In Ghana, like many other countries, using the left hand to hand items over is a big no! I used to get scolded a lot by the older ladies at markets and on the street where customs are more traditional because I would always forget. I’m so used to using both hands to do tasks like grocery shopping, and it almost feels like I can only use my right hand to do everything.”
Buying items and food from the street, Christina is able to enjoy cheap prices, like a full breakfast of porridge, eggs, and bread for just $2. For some things, though, she has ended up having to pay more than she would have paid in the States.
“One USD is equal to six Ghanaian cedis, so the currency is pretty strong in Ghana, but don’t let that fool you because Accra is not cheap! I’ve been doing furniture shopping for my apartment, and things I know I could easily get on Amazon for $10-15 run me about $50-$70, most likely because those items had to be imported. However, Accra is pretty well developed and you can find a lot of the things you would find in Florida here.”
However, Christina remains cognizant that despite the many expats she sees moving to Ghana and building their beautiful homes, Ghana is a developing country with real issues. Planning to someday go into developmental work, she considers herself blessed and beyond grateful to have the opportunity to study in Ghana and make an impact wherever she can.
“Living in Ghana challenges me to be mindful of the space I am occupying in the community as an American and how to ethically establish my presence here. Although I am only a graduate student, I try to hire local Ghanaian creatives when I can.”
You can follow Christina at @beingchristinajane.