Study Abroad #3 to Ghana | Does Preparation Get Easier?

Eti Sen?

In 9 days I will be boarding my flight to Accra, Ghana for one month and reality has finally set in. For weeks I was kind of just chilling but then when writing out my list of things I need to get done, I realized I couldn’t quite chill yet! Since it’s my third time going abroad, the chaos and panic wasn’t on my mind the entire summer like it was last year when I was leaving to Italy for 4 months. After the rather swift and smooth process of applying for another visa, my planning consisted of writing in my journal on a page titled ” Things to do in Ghana.”If anything I have been counting down the weeks and days to get up out of here and be in a new place. Still proactive, and keeping lists, I wanted to check and make sure I had everything I needed to take off soon.

This check-in I had with myself 2 weeks prior was so important.

One thing I would tell myself 3 months ago would be to DOUBLE CHECK which vaccines are required. Three months ago I had a doctor’s appointment with a travel consultation allegedly included. I had 3 vaccines/pills ordered but didn’t remember what they were for. So I called in, because I’m supposed to pick them up a week or so before I leave so I can start start the typhoid pills. I noticed that other people in my program mentioned they got the yellow fever vaccines. When I called to check if what I was getting was for yellow fever, the people at the pharmacy told me they weren’t. The yellow fever vaccine is the ONLY required vaccine and a certificate of vaccination is actually required to get into the country. I had a mini panic attack when I realized I literally would’ve landed in Ghana and been stranded at the border without this vaccine. Suddenly, I was scrambling to find clinics near me that provided the vaccination and worried that there were other vaccines that I might need. I spent 3 hours comparing prices because the yellow fever vaccine isn’t provided by my regular insurance provider. I was so confused because after leaving my appointment 3 months ago, I was told that I was good to go. Irritated, confused, and in a panicky state of mind, I booked an appointment for a vaccine I would have to pay $377 out of pocket for.

The vaccine portion was the most chaotic part of preparation but I got it done and am officially vaccine prepared for my trip. Had I have known what I know now, I would have booked a travel consultation appointment with my school during Spring Quarter, along with my regular doctor’s appointment, ┬ábecause the consultation would have been free. Now that its summer and I’m not enrolled in classes, the consultation isn’t free and I had to go offsite for a clinic open during times I wasn’t at work. I would also make copies of my vaccination history so I wouldn’t be confused as to if I needed other vaccinations. I probably could’ve saved money going elsewhere had I have known I only needed one shot.

This trip was different than others because of the whole vaccination process. It’s important to double check and allow some weeks to make sure you have everything you need to be safe and healthy to travel.

Moving left and right along, making packing and shopping lists ahead of time really help me to stay organized and not miss things! There are so many functional and small things I need to buy before I leave. I’m trying to slowly accumulate what I need so I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off the night before. I’ll do a separate blog post on things to pack when studying abroad, a natural hair specific post can already be found here.

School and work wise, there are some applications I want to submit before I leave just so I can be in the right space and mindset to apply for things. I’m trying to be as productive and proactive as possible so that next week I can spend time with my family and relax before flying/travelling for about 24 hours. I found a helpful checklist buried somewhere in my program’s drive that I’ll be checking off this week. For some reason, I was set on not taking cash with me and just getting cash from the ATM machines at the airport. Good thing that I am not the same today as I was last week and even yesterday because I realized I could just avoid anything weird happening with my card and me scrambling trying to find an ATM machine ┬áby already having cash on hand. So I’m checking off the first two portions today and taking local cash with me by ordering it from my bank.

Things to do before leaving

  • Call credit card company and bank to make sure they know you will be travelling (so you can make transactions)
  • Get ATM/debit card if desired. Note: you may be limited in which ATMs you can get cash from
  • Scan passport and email copy to yourself and the program directors
  • Set up Skype/Viber/etc account. Add the phone numbers of family/friends
  • Send your travel itinerary to the program directors
  • Complete IRB training. Send copy of certification to the program directors
  • Scan passport and email copy to yourself and the program directors
  • Get all immunizations and medications (i.e. malaria)
  • Bring yellow fever vaccination verification

*Sidenote* I really need to try out these wigs I call myself trying to wear for the trip until I get my hair braided while in Ghana. Having a hairstyle I like is so important and if it requires braids, I need to have it done a few days ahead so that I won’t have a pounding headache on the plane. My ideal style, is to wear my wigs but if that doesn’t work I’ll go back to the Havana twists I loved so dearly.

Now that I’ve gotten the most essential thing out of the way (vaccines) I feel very energized to knock off more things on my to do list. Having prior experience is helpful because I know what to expect/ how I will react to long flights and new scenarios and therefore I am able to plan and pack accordingly. I’ve got some more blog entries planned in my head for pre-departure so stay tuned!



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Exploring the world and my hair one dai at a time.

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