Approx. Time Difference
Add 8 hours
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, health and safety, finances and much more.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep all information in this guide updated and accurate, it should be considered in conjunction with program-specific correspondence, which may be more updated. There may be times when information relayed via such correspondence may supersede the online information. Students are responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides, and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad.
UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs whenever, in our sole judgment, local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Pre-Departure Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
UCEAP Ghana is administered by a UCEAP Resident Director. Staff will advise you on academic matters, assist with housing, and provide information on cultural activities.
Professor Rose Walls, Resident Director
Sharon Okantey, UCEAP Program Coordinator
University of California Study Center
University of Ghana, PO Box 356
Legon, Ghana, West Africa
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-233-302) 500-147
Phone (calling from Ghana): 0302-500-147
Office/Cell Phone: Sharon +233-244-680-123
Cell Phone: 011-233-24-025-4209 if calling from USA
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code . . . . . . . . . . . . 011
(dial this to call from the U.S.)
Ghana country code. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .233
Legon city code. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 030
Approximate Time Difference
Add 8 hours
The academic year normally runs from mid-August through late May. Each University of Ghana (UG) semester has 13 weeks of lecture, one week of review, and up to one month of exams; however, delays and disruptions in the calendar are common.
Learning to cope with delays, substitute classes, and other departures from normal academic calendars and processes is important for a positive experience. Exercise patience and ingenuity in adapting to the changes and making the most of the experience. In case of disruption at the university, UCEAP will attempt to organize substitute classes and other activities designed to keep your academic progress on track.
The fall and spring programs start approximately three weeks before the University of Ghana semester begins. During this initial three weeks you will participate in a class on Ghanaian society and culture.
- Minimum of 24 UC quarter/16 UC semester units each term, approximately six or seven courses.
- Ghana society and culture class (4 UC quarter units). Counts toward 24 unit minimum.
- Maximum of 1/3rd (33%) of units on the pass/no pass grading option. This is done in MyEAP only.
- Special Study Project form if you do a research project or internship for academic credit.
Sample MyEAP Study Lists
UC quarter units are based on University of Ghana units; 3 UG units equal 4 quarter/2.7 semester UC units and 2 UG units equal 3 quarter/2 semester UC units. Most courses are 3 UG units.
The University of Ghana does not enforce a maximum number of courses or units. Past UCEAP participants have successfully completed 30 quarter/20 semester UC units in a semester in this program.
About 10 percent of the country’s students attend one of Ghana’s six public universities. Since most professional jobs require a college degree, enrollment in the university is crucial to professional advancement. Ghanaian students take their university studies seriously.
You have obtained a place in the university that might have gone to a local student; therefore, take your classes seriously and act responsibly so as not to be viewed as misusing the educational opportunity and the university’s scarce resources.
Although they are about the same age as UC students, many Ghanaian university students come from a more traditional society and have attended boarding schools for their secondary education; therefore, they are generally more conservative and respectful of authority.
In secondary school, Ghanaian students specialize in science, agricultural science, arts and humanities, or business; they take a less varied but more intense curriculum than the average American student, and are consequently well grounded in their majors by the time they reach the university.
Flexibility, Independence, and Motivation
You are expected to show courtesy and respect when interacting with faculty, administrators, classmates, and student helpers. Your behavior should reflect positively on UC and UCEAP.
Be prepared for the challenges of life in a developing country and demonstrate respect for the Ghanaian people. It helps to be flexible, culturally open, and ready for the varying conditions of a far less affluent and comfortable environment than that found in California.
Be motivated and willing to pursue your studies with independence; be flexible in your academic plans and open to unique opportunities that may arise.
The oral communication characteristic of Ghanaian society applies to the university and classroom. There is less concern with providing consistent, explicit written announcements and more reliance on person-to-person communication. Cultivate relations with your Ghanaian classmates and keep in touch with other international students and the Study Center for current information. Check the bulletin boards regularly for announcements about your courses, including finals, class cancellations, activities, and more.
Academic activity is compartmentalized because University of Ghana students take all courses in their majors and levels. As an international student, you have non-degree status, and you may take courses in a variety of disciplines and levels. Some courses are limited to students who are majoring in that subject.
The university publishes a student handbook that lists courses, but the timetables (schedules) are not posted until shortly before classes begin.
There is a four part process for course registration.
- University of Ghana online registration. This is a rough schedule of courses you would like to take.
- Registration at each department. You will have to go to each department to request to take the courses. Departments do not have set schedules and this can take a couple of weeks.
- Confirmation of your course registration with the Study Center.
- Completion of your MyEAP Study List.
This process takes time and extreme patience. Be prepared to deal with conflicting class schedules.
Specific instructions for both University of Ghana and MyEAP registration procedures will be provided during your on-site orientation.
Language of Instruction
All courses, except language courses are taught in English; however, the English spoken in Ghana, including in the classroom is different in tone, pronunciation and vocabulary from the English spoken in the US. Be prepared to take time to learn the local ways of speaking English. This will prevent much misunderstanding. Students should also remember that although English is Ghana’s official language, it is not most people’s first language. Not only are Ghanaian students learning in their second language, but professors are also likely to be speaking in their second language.
Course Numbers and UC Division
Courses are assigned a University of Ghana course number related to the level (100, 200, 300, 400). You may not take 100-level courses except for language courses and certain performing arts courses. Levels 100 and 200 are lower division. UCEAP recommends the 300 and 400-level courses which are upper division. Class size tends to be smaller at the upper levels, especially in the elective courses.
The final digit of the course number indicates which term it is taught. Course numbers ending in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are offered first semester (fall). Course numbers ending in even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) are offered second semester (spring). Course numbers ending in 0 are offered both semesters.
The universities in Ghana are more British than American in structure and method. Instructors generally are called lecturers. You will need to listen carefully to lecturers who have accents and occasionally cope with poor-quality sound systems. Most instructors provide a course outline and a bibliography during the first two weeks of the class, but not beforehand.
There are generally three types of courses: 1) lectures, 2) seminars, and 3) studio courses in the arts and performance. Lecture courses are large and rather different from UC lecture courses in their objectives. Students attend lectures primarily to take notes and listen, not to discuss the subject matter, although some lecturers allow time for questions or pose questions to the students. Some lectures are complemented by a separate tutorial in which you will have more opportunity for questions and discussion. The tutorials are generally conducted by teachers’ assistants (TA). Ask your TA about tutorial sections as these will vary from class to class. Seminar courses allow for more discussion and debate.
Most lecturers are interested in helping international students. If there is no time to answer questions after class, you can visit faculty members during their office hours for further discussion. Faculty members usually are available during office hours or by appointment; sometimes a lecturer may be obligated to other commitments, in which case understand that this is a necessity of life in Ghana and be gracious about rescheduling an appointment. Be especially cooperative and respectful if you are working with an independent study project advisor.
You are responsible for obtaining reading materials for your classes. Books are expensive and difficult to obtain and libraries do not have the resources necessary to support all coursework; therefore, lecturers frequently cannot assign readings to be done ahead of time for discussion in class. In large classes, the instructor may give the readings to a class leader who makes them available for photocopying, usually on a weekly basis. Though not all readings are discussed in class, you will be expected to read most of the items on the bibliography and cite them on your exams. Be prepared to invest time and effort into searching out resources and opportunities to enhance your academic experience. You may need to make photocopies for some of your courses; however, more courses now use readers which are prepared by the departments. This will vary from course to course.
The university bookstore is the best source of textbooks and supplies, although sometimes books are difficult to obtain.
Library facilities at the University of Ghana are considered relatively good by African standards but limited by U.S. standards. The Balme Library, the main library, has multiple copies of a limited number of textbooks, reading rooms for study, and a catalog organized differently from UC libraries. Many of the materials are dated, in poor condition, and disorganized. The library is crowded by many students trying to access few materials; access to materials is further limited because some books have been stolen, defaced, or misplaced. New improvements to the Balme Library include online services
and a 24-hour reading room that is very comfortable and cool and heavily used during finals.
Many academic departments have their own reading rooms with basic texts for the courses taught by the department. It may also be possible for you to use the library of the African Studies Institute, which has a good collection of books on Africa.
The Study Center also has a collection of books that you may use. Consider leaving books with the UCEAP Study Center or the University of Ghana library after the program. Such donations are always welcome and they benefit future students.
To make the most of your courses and academic experience, independently invest time and effort to expand your study beyond the classroom. Some lecturers emphasize memorization of facts over critical analysis and expect students to reproduce the lecture material on exams. Others expect more independent work and expect students to give evidence of having mastered the readings listed in the bibliographies. There is sometimes a midterm exam and almost always a final comprehensive exam, which is usually in essay format, lasts about three hours, and counts for as much as 70 to 100 percent of the final grade. In addition to the final exam, many classes have continuous assessment (attendance, quizzes, assignments, papers, group projects, and class presentations) which can count for 30 percent of the final grade in some departments.
Attendance is important; absences may result in lower grades.
Past UCEAP participants who felt that a course was so easy that they did not need to attend lectures or take the class seriously were later surprised by the difficulty of the final exam. Because of the difficulty of final exams, it is recommended that you study for exams in groups, especially with Ghanaian students who are familiar with the required command of readings and know what to anticipate as possible exam topics.
The Balme Library has copies of previous exams from course lecturers. They can be useful as examples.
Local students take all of their courses in the same department as well as the same level (100, 200, 300, or 400). If you take courses from different departments and/or levels, you may have conflicts in your final exam schedule. If you have a schedule conflict, promptly ask the UCEAP Resident Director for advice on how to make arrangements to resolve the conflict.
Fall grades are usually available by late January.
Spring grades are usually available from late June to early July.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Independent Study, called a UCEAP Special Study Project, can enrich your experience in Ghana with fieldwork, research, or an internship. You may design a project on a topic related to West Africa, especially Ghana, which may include research or internship activities.
Only one research project or internship per student is permitted.
Special Study Projects are under the general direction of the UCEAP Resident Director and the supervision of a local faculty member or other qualified professional on-site. They are normally worth 6 UC quarter units although units vary depending on the type and amount of work involved.
Community service and volunteer opportunities, which may be developed into a Special Study Project, are available at many local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and schools including the University Hospital, the National Theatre, and the Family and Development Programme. There are institutes or projects on the University of Ghana campus that might also opportunities for research or internships. The Study Center will provide information after arrival on service opportunities and NGOs. Past internship providers
Prior to Departure
- Research possible study topics or internships and consult appropriate UC campus faculty members for advice. It may be possible to develop a project related to the research interests of a UC faculty member or to your long-term research or honors work at your UC campus.
- Take a research methods course. If this is not possible, find an introductory research methods text in your field of interest and take the text with you to Ghana.
- Write a preliminary proposal. Instructions for completing and submitting the proposal are in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist. Sample preliminary proposal
- Establish a second topic in case the first one does not work out.
- Contact your campus library for instructions for using the California Digital Library.
On Site in Ghana
Complete a Special Study Project form
and a formal research proposal or plan of study in consultation with the UCEAP Resident Director and the host university faculty member or other designated supervisor. At this time, you will refine your topic or possibly shift it to better fit the resources available or the cultural-political environment in Ghana. Remember to be respectful and professional in your relations with your supervisors. Sample special study project form and formal proposal
The proposal requires:
- Explanation of the topic, including the objective of the study
- Methodology to be used
- Expected result (including the type of work to be submitted for a grade)
- Outline of the steps to implement the project
- List of sources to be consulted (bibliography, archives, exhibit, performances, interviewees, etc., as appropriate to the topic)
Be flexible and take advantage of the assistance of the UCEAP Resident Director and supervising instructor in Ghana to focus and refine your topic.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
are excellent resources. Take at least one travel guide about Ghana and Africa with you as travel guides are not readily available in Ghana.
Past students have found the following guides useful: Lonely Planet’s Africa on a Shoestring and West Africa; the Bradt Travel Guide to Ghana, and the Rough Guide to West Africa.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals.
Some useful websites include:
As a UCEAP student, you will need to adapt to conditions that may be considerably different than what you have ever experienced and modify some lifestyle behaviors. If you can successfully adapt, you will gain a deep understanding of Ghanaian culture, new and potentially lifelong friendships, and a different approach to things you currently take for granted (e.g., running water).
Living in a group-oriented society
In group-oriented societies such as Ghana, people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) and extended social networks.
Ghanaians are generally accepting of cultural errors made by foreigners, but you should be aware of basic cultural norms. Greetings are particularly important in Ghanaian culture, which typically come in the form of a handshake accompanied by a proper welcoming. People are extremely polite, and typically greet everyone they meet or speak to on the phone. Failing to greet someone is impolite.
Pay attention to the information provided during UCEAP orientations and take advantage of the knowledge and experience of Study Center staff as they advise you about appropriate behavior.
Some students find the pace of life much slower. It is common for appointments to be delayed and for Ghanaians to arrive to meetings late. Anticipate tardiness—it is not a sign of rudeness and should never be raised as an issue or Ghanaians will take offense.
Modern Ghanaian society is a mixture of traditional and Western customs. Ghanaians consider family values, respect for seniority, and the significance of proper social behavior to be very important. Conformity to social norms is expected.
To transition culturally and adapt to life in Ghana, you may need to make some temporary but essential compromises with who you are as an American and as a person. For example, female students may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States, political discussions should be minimized, and you may want to consider keeping to yourself some of your personal beliefs. You must be ready to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping.
Stay academically motivated and focused, and regard yourself less as a tourist and more as a serious student. Although Ghanaians are generally accepting of cultural errors made by foreigners, do not display behavior that could be perceived as rude, disrespectful, or arrogant by locals, especially toward older persons. Cultural sensitivity should always be strictly observed while traveling anywhere.
The Study Center communicates with all students formally through email, text messages or phone calls. You will also receive newsletters about activities in your Study Center mailbox. A lot of activities happen sporadically, check the Study Center bulletin board at least twice a week to see notices about local speakers, concerts, plays and fun travel opportunities or cultural activities they discover from media or local contacts.
In general, Ghanaians tend to dislike, and avoid, confrontation and will use laughter to diffuse serious or tense situations. As a consequence, UCEAP students have felt Ghanaians can be disrespectful by laughing and lightheartedly commenting during awkward moments. Understand this behavior is not to disrespect or insult others; it is a cultural coping mechanism.
It is customary to shake hands when you meet or leave people. Ghanaians are extremely polite and typically greet everyone they meet or speak to on the phone. Failing to greet someone is impolite. Use your right hand for greeting, waving, exchanging money, drinking, shaking hands, and if possible, eating. Ghanaians make some allowances for left-handedness, but trying to use your right hand shows respect. Ghanaians do not eat with their left hand, as this is generally considered unclean. It is important that you always greet people, even if you are in a hurry; not greeting people appropriately is viewed as extremely offensive.
In conversation, people often stand close to one another.
Ghanaians will regularly ask for a student’s phone number and address very early in a conversation, even if they have never met before. The majority will be harmless but you should expect to be called regularly if you share your phone number. Do not give out your dorm address.
- It is culturally important not to eat, point, or offer anything with your left hand because of its association with bathroom activities.
- It is considered rude to show the bottoms of your feet or shoes to people who are facing you.
- Prolonged eye contact, especially between men and women of the same age, can sometimes be construed as overly bold or even a sexual "come-on." Similarly, eye contact between young people and elders may be seen as rude. This may not apply when dealing with Ghanaians used to western ways, but it would be wise to interact with people in this more polite form until you know what's acceptable.
The Study Center will provide sessions and tips and that will help you with integration and prepare you for your Ghanaian experience. They cover special issues for women, African Americans and other people of color; and for the queer community.
African-American students sometimes go to Ghana with expectations of being more easily or rapidly accepted into African culture. In reality, Ghanaians see all Americans, regardless of their skin color, as foreigners who are unfamiliar with African culture or mores. A book that treats this subject sensitively is Maya Angelou’s memoir, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. You can also read at the Study Center, Resident Director Rose Walls' book, In Ghana Here. It covers practical adjustment experiences in a humorous manner.
Lonely Planet’s Healthy Travel—Africa provides some insight on social expectations and queues between men and women in African society. It is important for males to be aware of what fellow female UCEAP students will experience; the attention they receive is greater than what males will experience.
Female Students and Harassment
Be careful about dating. Avoid inviting men to your room as some men might view this as an invitation for sex. American women are accustomed to the concept of platonic friendship with males, which does not necessarily translate in Ghanaian culture. Going out with or talking with a man may have a different meaning in Ghana than you may intend. Your actions are stronger than your words.
Be prepared for attention from local males. “Bring me to America” and “marry me” are common requests, mostly from men off campus. It is common for female students in Ghana to receive marriage proposals. It may be difficult in the beginning to distinguish sexual harassment from routine attention. If harassment becomes unbearable, consult with the Study Center.
There are steps you can take to minimize harassment:
- Integrate into the community;
- Make friends with local women;
- Learn from local women about self-protection;
- Dress and behave according to local customs;
- Stay in control and keep your senses; stay sober and alert; and
- Have a buddy system and travel in groups
- Follow your intuition if something “doesn’t feel right” and immediately remove yourself from the situation
It is understandable that harassment can escalate if you feel angry and exasperated because of the harassment. Confrontations only elicit further attention, thus it is best to respond as follows:
- Ignore the harassment;
- Pretend confusion or lack of understanding; and
- Move away from the situation.
Ghanaians are meticulous about their attire. Ghanaian students dress more formally on campus. Cleanliness is a sign of respect, and clothes should be relatively conservative. You will hand wash your clothes or use a laundry service. Laundry services are available on campus. They wash and iron clothing for a very reasonable price and many students use their services throughout the semester.
Ghanaians dress more conservatively than American students. UC students tend to dress more casually at formal occasions. Many UCEAP students have commented that they felt underdressed at times. Ghanaians also express offense when foreign students wear “raggedy” clothing to school.
Take lightweight clothing that can be hand washed and drip-dried. Most wash will be dry cleaned or laundered by hand. Clothes that cover more skin are good barriers against the sun and mosquito bites. Returnees suggest ironing clothes after air drying them to remove parasites or insects. This also helps with mold which is a very real problem due to the high humidity.
Pack 1–2 days’ worth of clothes in your carry-on luggage. If your luggage is delayed, you will have some clothes until you are able to retrieve your luggage. UCEAP students have had such problems in the past.
- Skirts and shorts typically are knee-length or longer.
- Do not show your midriff, unless at the beach.
- Sandals are acceptable shoes to wear, though flip-flops are regarded as shower shoes.
- In the presence of a chief, queen mothers, or elder, remove headwear, including earphones.
- Brightly colored clothes are acceptable.
Personal hygiene and a neat appearance are very important. Also, Ghana is humid; take small handkerchiefs to use for sweat.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
After arrival in Legon (Accra), you will attend a mandatory orientation provided by the UCEAP Study Center that covers:
- Information on travel, health, safety, money matters, markets, food, and practical living tips
- Visits to historic sites, traditional festivals, and/or other field trips
- Music and dance lessons
- Academic information, including available courses and host institution and MyEAP Study List Registration
You are responsible for making your own transportation arrangements to and from Ghana (even if you will be receiving financial aid) and for arriving on the Official UCEAP Start Date. This includes reserving and purchasing airline tickets (purchase a changeable ticket). Standby tickets are not acceptable.
Program dates and arrival information are posted on the UCEAP website. Failure to appear on the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Student Conduct section). When traveling, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
The Official Arrival and Start Date can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications to your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for travel arrangements. To stay informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information (mailing address, e-mail, and phone number).
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
Additional information about passports, visas, and other required documents is provided in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and on the UCEAP website.
After arrival you will be required to give your passport to the Ghana Immigration Service for resident permit processing. During this time, which can last anywhere from two to six weeks, you may not leave Ghana. The Study Center and the host university conduct the required three-week orientation and help facilitate the resident permit process. You can read more about this local government requirement on the Ghana Immigration Service website.
All nationalities require a visitor’s visa to study in Ghana. A visa is an endorsement issued by Ghana authorities before your departure. The visitor’s visa grants you permission to enter and reside in Ghana. A return airline ticket is not required to obtain a student visa.
A multiple-entry visa is also available if you are considering travel to another country. You do not need a host university acceptance letter to apply for a visitor’s visa at the Ghanaian embassy.
Students who extend their stay may need to renew their resident’s permit with Ghana immigration depending on the length of time they remain in the country. The resident permit generally allows one year of residency.
Certificate of Yellow Fever Immunization
The government in Ghana requires yellow fever vaccination before arrival. Upon arrival at the airport, you may need to present a valid international certificate of yellow fever vaccination or you will not be allowed to stay in the country. You should be immunized at the time you complete your UCEAP Health Clearance on your UC campus.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
UCEAP students have found that they could buy most of the things they need in Ghana. They note that the mosquito nets sold at the pharmacy on the University of Ghana campus are less expensive than in the U.S.
It is illegal to wear any military clothing or sportswear with a camouflage design. Leave these items at home.
See the section on attire in this guide under Cultural Awareness for more tips.
- Antimalarial medication (see the Staying Healthy chapter in this guide)
- Mosquito repellent with high DEET level (30 percent recommended)
- Fiber supplement and multivitamins
- Anti-itch cream/hydrocortisone
- Anti-cold/fever medicine
- Anti-rash/fungal cream
- Treatment for upset stomach and diarrhea (e.g., Pepto-Bismol or Imodium)
- Electric plug adapters and transformer (see Electrical Appliances in this chapter)
- Surge protector
- Small luggage locks
- Twin-size bed linens and a pillow
- Quick-dry microfiber towels
- Antibacterial hand sanitizer
- USB flash drives (pen drives) and wifi stick
- Sunscreen SPF 50 or above
- Nice outfits for formal occasions and outings
- Lightweight, easy-to-care-for clothing that can be hand washed and drip-dried
- Lightweight rain gear
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes with straps (e.g., Teva, Chakos)
- LCD self-powered flashlight
- Refillable water bottle
Laptop with lock (computer viruses are a problem in Africa; make sure you have the latest antivirus software)
Mosquito net (can be purchased in Ghana)
SteriPEN UV water purifier
Padlock for dorm room closet (padlocks are also available in any Ghanaian market including the on-campus “Bush Canteen”)
Earplugs (the dorms can be noisy)
Favorite cosmetics or toiletries (tampons, deodorant, shampoo)
Favorite paperback books
American gifts for new friends, especially if you are invited to a Ghanaian home
Swimsuit or beachwear
Favorite comfort or staple foods. Example: salsa, burrito kit, gum, etc. You can get an El Paso Taco kit for about $15, or about 3 times the cost in the USA.
Snacks like candy and granola bars (former students consider this essential)
White T-shirts and black pants or tights for the practical dance course
Voltage is 240V (U.S. is 110 volts). Transformer and adapter plugs are needed to use appliances from home. Both round and flat three-pronged plugs are commonly used. Markets on campus and in town sell plug converters, though the quality may be substandard.
Ghana lies entirely within the tropics. The average temperature is between 70ºF (21ºC) and 90ºF (32ºC) and humidity is high. There are two rainy seasons (April to June and September to November) and one dry season (December to March). Severe torrential rain falls during the annual wet seasons. This causes floods in low-lying areas, and riverbanks overflow easily. The sewage system in Accra and surrounding regions is inadequate even during periods of normal precipitation. During the floods, the system is severely over-burdened.
To protect yourself during hot weather:
- Wear sunscreen and a hat;
- stay hydrated;
- watch for mild to moderate signs of dehydration: dry, sticky mouth; sleepiness or tiredness; thirst; headache; clammy skin; dizziness or lightheadedness; constipation, etc.;
- watch for heat stroke signs: hot or flushed dry skin, rapid heart rate, confusion, or loss of consciousness; and
- wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection.
Insurance for Personal Posessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
For further information see the Money Matters chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and the Money Matters tab of your Participants Portal
. If you will be receiving financial aid, see also the Financial Aid
section of the Money Matters chapter in UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The official currency unit in Ghana is the cedi (abbreviated GHC).
Be cautious about carrying and displaying money and expensive personal items. Use ATMS with caution.
Most UCEAP students use their ATM card from a home account in the U.S. to access money in Ghana. ATM cards must have the Visa logo. Make sure your PIN does not exceed four characters. Withdrawals from your U.S. bank account can take time to post, so be careful not to overdraw. Students can use their Bank of America ATM card at Barclay's Bank without a problem, but inform Bank of America of your travel plans before leaving the US.
Once abroad, you can change money into cedis on campus, at one of the many Forex Bureaus in Accra, or at the airport. Currency exchange is also available at most banks. The exchange rate is about 25 percent better for cash than it is for travelers checks.
Conduct foreign currency transactions only through registered banks and licensed foreign exchange bureaus. Currency transactions with private citizens are illegal.
Year students can open a bank account at Barclays Bank or the Standard Bank on campus and then receive additional money through wire transfers into the account. This will allow you to access money from ATMs, which can be found on campus in Accra and throughout other big cities. Bank of America is associated with Barclays Bank, so if you have an account with Bank of America you will not be charged an international fee for withdrawals and wire transfers.
Another option would be a Charles Schwab account because you can withdraw for free and they will reimburse you for any fees incurred -- however Charles Schwab accounts may require you to have a minimum in your account.
Western Union can be used to transfer funds to Ghana, although past students say the charges are high and conversion rates are low.
Credit cards are accepted by malls, hotels, and modern supermarkets. However, UCEAP and the U.S. Embassy in Ghana strongly advise against the use of credit cards in Ghana or anywhere else in Africa. Credit card fraud is a major problem in Ghana. It is more common to use cash rather than credit cards. Returnees report that Visa is the best credit card to use, and that MasterCard and American Express are seldom accepted throughout Ghana. Refrain from using a credit card unless absolutely necessary.
Free Wi-Fi connectivity is now available at all the dorms on campus, but is not always available. Students can connect to Wi-Fi Internet using their laptops, smartphones, and other Internet devices. Most of the lecture halls and popular locales on campus also have free wi fi but these can be very slow. You can also purchase a 4G modem, stick or MiFi for $25 and you would have to buy top up units depending on the data usage.
The Study Center recommends that you take a laptop as wireless Internet is available in the International Programs Office which is next to the Study Center. You must equip your laptop with the latest antivirus software; computer viruses are common in Africa. The Study Center also has computers that you can use during office hours. Free wireless Internet is available at the American Corner on campus.
Ghana uses a different electric current than what is used in the U.S. and electricity can be sporadic, so you will need both an adapter and a surge protector. You may also consider purchasing a portable hard drive or CD-ROMs for data storage, as some students have found that flash drives were destroyed by viruses.
Internet access may be much slower and sometimes unreliable. Adjust your expectations.
Time difference: add 8 hours
Most UCEAP students obtain cell phones in Ghana, which allow you to receive calls free of charge. Basic Nokia cell phones cost between $20–$50. A prepaid card is needed to make outgoing calls. Phone credit recharge cards are widely available and can be purchased in units of $1 to $10. Local calls typically cost less than 5 cents per minute; international calls vary from 10-20 cents per minute. You can take a cell phone to Ghana that operates on the GSM network and purchase a SIM card locally; however, the fee for decoding the U.S. cell phone is more expensive than buying a new phone in Ghana.
Social networking software such as Skype
is commonly used to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet. Most UCEAP students take laptops to Ghana and/or use the wireless Internet in the Study Center to connect with family in the U.S.
Shipping often results in more expense and trouble than anticipated. The Study Center will not collect luggage shipped in advance, and staff will not pick up luggage that must be claimed at a customs office or dock. You may not send luggage to an in-transit location.
The postal system in Ghana is typically slow and sometimes unreliable. Provide the following mailing address to friends and relatives who will send you packages in Ghana:
Postal Address for UCEAP
P. O. Box LG 356
University of Ghana
For Courier Services (Package delivery to the Centre)
UCEAP Ghana Study Centre
P. O. Box LG 356
University of Ghana
Legon Campus, Ghana
International Programmes Building
First Floor, Right Wing
Do not use the director’s name in the address.
Packages are charged a tax and service fee, which differs depending on the size and contents of the package. Postal employees tax packages due to local custom regulations. There is a higher tax if the package contains electronics or food such as cookies and candies.
Retrieving Packages at the Post Office
UCEAP returnees say that it can be costly to retrieve packages at the post office. Packages mailed from abroad via regular mail (i.e., not a private courier) are kept at the Ghana post office. Students are sent a package slip to pick up their packages personally. The Study Center advises that you go the post office with your student ID card, be courteous with the officers, and use the bargaining Twi you will learn during orientation and you may have your tax reduced. Ghanaians must also go through this process when receiving packages from abroad; it is a part of the bureaucracy that comes along with living and studying in most foreign locations.
Packages sent through a private courier service are delivered at the Study Center. Returnees recommend that students use UPS or FedEx, though it is more expensive. The fees charged by FedEx and UPS generally do not require the receiver to pay taxes. The custom fees are generally pre-charged to the sender.
You will live on campus in a residence hall. You will be asked to choose one before departure: Volta Hall, Legon Hall, and International Students Hostel (ISH). UC students have a choice; all other international students live in ISH or off campus. All dorms include laundry, free Wi-Fi, dining halls, and a curfew.
- Free internet Wi-Fi is available everywhere on campus.
- Rooms are doubles and shared with a UCEAP, international, or local Ghanaian student.
- The dorm will provide you with a bed, chair, writing table, and armoire. Bring your own twin-size bed sheets, towels, and pillows. You can buy sheets in Ghana, but the Study Center recommends bringing them from home because you will need them immediately.
- Basic communal kitchens are on each floor.
- The majority of rooms have a thick wooden door with a Chubb Lock. Rooms also have bars and mosquito nets over the windows.
- The dorm cost for a double room is included in the UCEAP fees. Choosing a more expensive housing option will result in your MyEAP account being adjusted for actual housing costs.
- Past students have complained that housing and tuition costs for Ghanaian students are less than those charged to international students. The Ghanaian government subsidizes the housing and tuition costs for the Ghanaian students. This is similar to the UC policy of charging different fees for in-state and out-of-state students.
- You are responsible for the cost of meals.
- Your payment to UCEAP does not cover the housing costs for the time between terms in Ghana (for year students). The cost is reasonable if you plan ahead for this expense.
- If you need to change the hall to which you have been assigned, contact Study Center staff after arrival.
- Off-campus housing is not permitted.
- There is a UG housing video on YouTube.
Volta Hall is an all-female hall located at the upper west side of campus open to female students only. It contains a porters lodge, guest rooms, chapel, dining hall, library, annex, laundry service, hair salon, convenience store, and a computer lab with printer and free Wi-Fi. The students are from the freshman through the senior classes. Most of students in Volta will have another UC student as their roommate. Volta hall is a ten minute walk from the California Study Center (SC).
Legon Hall is a co-ed dorm open to male UC students. It is also located on the upper western side of campus. It is composed of a main hall and three annexes. The main hall, designated for both men and women, consists of a porters lodge, a professors’ lounge, a dining hall, a library, a study room, two computer labs, a laundry service, a hair salon, pharmacy, and a convenience store. Behind the main hall are three annexes: Annex A, which houses men; Annex B which houses women; and Annex C which houses graduate level students. Similar to Volta Hall, Legon Hall is designated for students who are from the freshman through the senior class. The UC students in Legon hall live on the fourth floor of annex A. You will have another UC student as your roommate. Legon Hall is a ten minute walk from the California Study Center.
International Students Hostel (ISH) is a co-ed hostel on the south end of campus and divided into two separate buildings: ISH 1 and ISH 2. Each Hostel has 4 floors with rooms of single and double occupancy. Each floor has a laundry room, 2 kitchenettes and a T.V. lounge. The ground floor has two Reading Rooms. There is also a porter’s lodge, a small restaurant, and a computer lab. It also has an open air food market just one block away. It is a 20 minute walk from ISH to the California study center.
Residence hall life is very important to the Ghanaian students. The campus is buzzing with activity every evening and on weekends that is, in part, driven by residence hall relationships.
Residence halls are based on the British model. This means that the residence hall is not only a place to sleep but a place to live. Volta and Legon Halls very much follow this tradition. In addition to formal dining halls, there are smaller eateries, the equivalent of pubs, small shops, Internet cafés, senior (students) commons rooms, and staff (faculty) commons rooms. The halls have their own athletic teams that regularly compete against other halls, and generally see themselves as important units of campus life.
Volta and Legon Halls offer a wonderful opportunity to make Ghanaian friends and have late night conversations and bond over fetching water or doing laundry. In addition, you can participate in hall pride events, like the Volta Hall Fashion Show or the Legon Hall Week. Living in Volta or Legon greatly impresses local students and makes them more comfortable with you. Ghanaians meeting you will be pleasantly surprised you don’t live in ISH. Students living in Volta and Legon can expect many people to come by their room, whether or not they personally know the student. People selling goods, advertising religion, or looking to borrow something are the most common visitors. It’s acceptable to refuse any of their requests. ISH is composed of international students, including students from the African continent, as well as Ghanaian students. Though ISH does not have Ghanaian students in great number as other halls do, a blending of cultures still occurs amongst the students and all are able to genuinely gain some type of cultural experience.
The differences in dorm life between UC and universities in Ghana will take adjustment. Particularly unusual is the different schedules Ghanaian students keep, going to sleep early and rising early. UC students initially complain about the early morning “noise” of megaphone or microphone amplified preaching coming from their main quads/yards. Ghana is a very devout nation, with all manner of fundamentalist churches and a very high percentage of demonstrative Christian students. The interface between Americans and locals can lead to misunderstanding and even hostility. You must understand the importance of tolerance and realize that you are in another country. Rather than expect local people to change their behavior, you need to make the adaptations. Remember that you are studying abroad to experience another culture—not to impart your values and culture.
"Be open to other things besides your own way of living and interacting. Be culturally sensitive. You are the foreigner, and some things are done differently in Ghana." -UCEAP Student
Internet, Water, and Power
Internet, water, and power outages occur in all halls. Water on campus is more plentiful during the rainy season, but does not run continuously.
During water outages, water poly tanks are located on each floor and the study center provides students with containers to store water. During power outages, students have their own rechargeable lamps and flashlights as there are no backup generators.
Legon has more frequent water outages and water poly tanks are available. When water stops running, students fetch water from the ground floor. Students in Legon take many bucket showers. Just like Volta Hall, the study center provides water containers to store water. Bathrooms in Legon are very large and open and offer little privacy.
Legon’s power remains constant during both the rainy and dry season. Students still equip their room with flashlights and rechargeable lamps in case of a mass power outage on campus. The main hall’s restaurant, Time Out, supplies a power generator to dining students.
International Student Hostel (ISH)
There are water reservoir tanks on the roofs and grand floor of both ISH 1 and ISH 2. For power shortages, backup generators are available.
"Remember that you chose to go to Ghana. Never expect things to change for you, just accept situations as they are and learn from them." -UCEAP Student
While violent crime is rare, petty theft occurs in all dorms. Keep your doors and windows locked at all times even if you step out to use the washroom. All rooms have desks or wardrobes with lockable drawers and chambers. Theft has occurred in UCEAP student rooms when doors and windows were unlocked, even if just for a minute.
Volta Hall’s main entry is guarded by porters 24 hours a day. The main entry is closed during the late evening and reopened in the morning. The Volta porters and Volta students are very strict about visiting hours. No male students may enter or exit between set hours (11pm to 8am). Porters and security guards have amazing memories and will find and kick out visiting students in the late evenings. Only one guard is on duty during the evening hours.
Legon’s main hall has three main entry ways during the day and only one is open at night. The response time of both the porters and security guards to incidents are often slow. Legon Hall’s Annexes A through C are also loosely guarded, so one needs to take good precautions to avoid theft.
International Students Hostel (ISH)
In each of the International Students Hostels, there is one main entry way. Each entrance is tended by two security guards and porters 24 hours a day. The porters require all visitors to check-in. Like Volta, ISH has strict visiting hours. Porters and security have great memory and will actively seek out visiting students after hours.
"Prepared meals are expensive and market food gets boring. Bring some favorite stovetop recipes (simple ingredients only!) and plan to do your own cooking." -UCEAP Student
Ghanaian textures and tastes are quite different from what you may be used to in the US. Take some of your favorite spices from home.
Typical meals consist of red palm oil, fish, red meat, chicken, rice, plantains, and cassava, a starchy root that is usually mashed. Many of the green vegetable dishes are mixed with small pieces of fish, and special vegetarian options of this kind are rarely possible with canteen or street foods.
You can eat in the dorm commons or at restaurants or the Bush Canteen on campus. A short walking distance from the International Students Hostel is the All Needs grocery store. There are many restaurants and import supermarkets in Accra Mall, A & C Mall, Osu near Danquah Circle and Cantonments Road, East Legon, at “37”, and at several nearby shopping malls. These stores and restaurants have foods that may be more familiar to foreign students, but they will also be more expensive.
Meals on campus cost about $2–$5, depending on your taste. A reasonably good meal in a Western-style restaurant starts at about $12. Popular kebabs ("meat sticks") are about 50 cents each.
Some portion sizes are big and food sharing is quite common. People may invite you to eat their food right from their plates (with your hands). Never refuse food, even if it looks unappetizing. Visitors are always offered a glass of water and sometimes some cream crackers. Offer the same when people visit you.
Bottled water is inexpensive and plentiful. Purified (filtered) water is called “pure water” and is available everywhere in sachets. This water is cheaper than that which comes in bottles and it is of the same or comparable quality. When you are off campus or traveling without bottled water, take the necessary precautions and prepare your water by boiling or using iodine tablets.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Maintaining a vegetarian or vegan diet in Ghana is very easy if you choose to cook and prepare meals for yourself. Across the street from the campus (10 minute walk) is a modern supermarket (Max Mart) that contains ethnic food sections from around the world and special sections on natural and organic foods. There are also several vegetarian restaurants that make and sell tofu and other vegan products in East Legon and near the airport. A growing focus on wellness in the Accra metropolitan area and push by the Ministry of Health has caused several area restaurants to focus on providing more vegan options on their menu. The vegetable market at the “37” bus station is also a regular shopping point for vegetarians.
Being a vegetarian or vegan requires a bit more work and patience when eating out or at the dorms in Ghana. Traditional meals still rely heavily on the use of fish (fresh, smoked or salted) to provide protein. In Ghana, “fish” is not considered a meat, so when inquiring about a vegetarian dish, you will need to ask specifically if it contains meat or fish and you must specify when ordering that you desire to have no meat or fish in your dish. This can be done, but you should be prepared to wait as most food with special requirements are prepared when ordered.
Banku: Side dish of fermented corn dough
Cassava: Brown root, smaller than a yam (its thick skin must be removed)
Cocoyam: Small round and brown root the size of a potato
Corn dough: Used in the preparation of banku and kenkey
Fufu: Made with mashed cassava and plantain or mashed yam, pounded with a fufu stick until it becomes a rather large glutinous mass (like mashed potatoes) usually served with groundnut, palm nut, or garden egg soup
Garden eggs: Vegetable like an eggplant, but about the size of a lemon and yellow or white when ripe
Gari: Shredded dry cassava (eaten like cereal with sugar and milk, or soaked and then eaten with sauce)
Ground-nut soup: Mixture of peanut butter and tomato soup, contains chicken or meat and served with yam, rice, plantain, fufu, kenkey, or bread rolls
Kelewele: Fried plantain chips seasoned with ginger and hot pepper eaten as a snack, like peanuts)
Kenkey: Boiled fermented corn dough wrapped in dried corn leaves and
served with sauce or fried fish and pepper sauce
Kontomire: Spinach cooked in sauce with palm oil (served with banku, kenkey, gari, yam, plantain, or rice)
Palm-nut soup: Small red fruits from a type of palm tree are boiled, pounded and strained, and cooked into a thick soup
Paw paw: Papaya
Plantain: Looks like a large banana, but is starchier and requires cooking (good when extremely ripe, sliced thin, and fried in oil—often sold grilled on the streets)
Red red: deep-fried beans (can be accompanied by onions, oil, gari, plantains and spices)
Toogbei: Fried doughnut holes
Yam: Two kinds are available—the pona yam, very large, light brown root, usually smooth outside, is best for boiling; and the butter yam, which is slightly darker than the pona variety and rough on the outside
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
The University of Ghana is located in the Legon district of northern Accra about 11 miles from Accra Central (downtown Accra).
Public transportation—including buses, taxis, and trains—is available in Ghana. The preferred method of transportation is taxi. Train travel is slow and can be dangerous.
A tro-tro is a general term for any public transportation vehicle other than a bus or taxi that is designed to carry many people. These minivans provide a vital public service transporting up to 20 passengers around the city and countryside. Tro-tros are typically old, 12-passenger VW vans. Similar to shared taxis, tro-tros will run along fixed routes, have fixed fares, and will rarely run with less than capacity. Tro-tro drivers use hand signals indicating their destination. Vehicle maintenance and driving standards can be poor. Tro-tro accidents can cause loss of life to occupants. They have little or no provision for passenger comfort and safety. They are frequently involved in road crashes outside of Accra. Drivers often work long hours. Do not travel by tro-tro; if you must, use common sense before boarding a vehicle. If in doubt, wait for the next vehicle.
Vanef STC government-run buses are considered among the best in West Africa, and are probably best way to travel long distances. STC operates 2 classes: Regular and luxury (economy and express). Only express are air conditioned. STC operates between Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, Cape Coast, and other main cities. There are also several new private bus services (e.g., VIP, VVIP, OA, M-Plaza, etc.) that provide high-quality intercity services to major cities throughout Ghana and West Africa.
Purchasing bus tickets can be challenging. Buses frequently fill up very early. You may need to purchase your ticket a day or two prior to your trip as seats may not be available on the day you want to leave. Some bus stations do not sell tickets in advance and you will need to go to the station very early (4:00 or 5:00 am) to get a seat for travel that day.
Buses frequently run late. Former UCEAP students recommend purchasing tickets for the morning so you arrive at your destination on time.
Vanef STC Phone: 233-302-221-912
Taxis are widely available and fairly inexpensive but are often not well maintained outside of major cities. It is best if you charter taxis and do not share them with strangers. Dropping, or fixed-price taxis, are more expensive but preferable to shared taxis. Most taxis do not have meters, but a taxi ride anywhere in the city should not cost more than GHS 15-20 (roughly USD 10-12.00). Prices are negotiable. Always agree on a fare before getting into the vehicle. Fares will vary based on the time of day (rush hour, late night, during bad weather, etc.) Taxis on campus have a fixed rate. Do not use unregistered taxis at any time. There are sufficient registered taxis in Accra to transport all passengers without the need to use unregistered vehicles.
Female students are strongly discouraged from traveling alone in taxis at night. In the event that a lone student must use a taxi, you should sit in the rear of the vehicle behind the driver and lock both rear doors on entering the vehicle. Never allow strangers to enter the vehicle once you are already inside. Be cautious and use the same street smarts you would utilize in any major city in the U.S.
When you decide to participate in UCEAP Ghana, you expect it to be challenging. That is why you participate; to challenge yourself, to learn, and to grow.
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community.
Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations, attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles, and get the most out of your time abroad! Sports such as soccer (football), basketball, boxing, and cricket are popular with Ghanaian students.
Various institutions sponsor Ghanaian, North American, or European cultural activities. The Arts Center on High Street presents displays of African dancing and art. The British Council shows British films. The Goethe Institute shows German films, most of which are subtitled in English. It also presents concerts, art exhibitions, and lectures. The Alliance Française has a library and theater club, and sponsors exhibitions, film shows, and concerts. Outside Accra there are often durbars, which are local festivities with colorful parades, dancing, and drumming. There is also the Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture, which has a gallery and research library. The American Embassy also sponsors activities for some special holidays or celebrations.
Peer Guides and Local Friends
The Study Center will direct you to information on cultural and social events, and will arrange activities and excursions during the term.
Local Ghanaian students (peer guides) will also be available through the Study Center to provide you with advice, especially during the orientation. Once the semester begins, the peer guides will be occupied with their own academic life and will not be “on call”. Be aware that peer guides may decline your offers to socialize during the semester because they are not only busy with their studies, but they often cannot afford to socialize at bars and restaurants.
UCEAP students often become fond of the peer guides, but it is important to keep in mind proper etiquette to maintain positive relationships with new local friends. For example, UC students have a reputation for being somewhat demanding of the peer guides. The peer guides will provide helpful advice and guidance, but they also expect you to listen and treat them with respect. Treating peer guides to a meal or giving gifts is appreciated and appropriate.
Students with Disabilities
Contact the Study Center staff if you need information or help.
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Ghana Immigration does not allow individuals in the country on a student visa to engage in employment that earns a salary. Internships that offer transportation and meal allowances are allowed and students do not have to report these benefits to the Internal Revenue Service as income if such work is for academic purposes. Please review the Internships in the Academic Information section above.
Homosexuality in Ghana is illegal. Although there is a small gay community, there is no “scene”, and a large portion of Ghanaian society does not accept that such activity exists. LGBT students face a harsh legal and social environment throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, social attitudes do not differ greatly from official legal codes.
Anti-LGBT violence may occur in Ghana. There are legal restrictions against consensual same-sex relations. There are reported incidents of arrests and extortion attempts in relation to same-sex activities. Same-sex couples that publicly express affection may face harassment from locals and police.
Ghanaian men and women may hold hands or walk arm-in-arm with friends of the same gender, but this is typically a sign of friendship and not of sexual orientation. Exercise caution about revealing your sexual orientation. Being “out” can invite harassment and physical attack.
Your encounter with new cultures will necessitate adjustment to different customs, lifestyle and languages. Ghana is different from the US, and culture shock will hit you one way or another. It can be stressful to realize that what you expected is not the same as the reality that greets you when you arrive. Perhaps, for the first time in your life, everything around you is completely new, strange, and unfamiliar—and you are not going back to California in a week. The difference between what you expect and what you actually experience may determine the level of distress that you feel.
It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the vastly different environment. Whenever your usual coping mechanisms are not working for you or you find yourself making coping choices that are not in your best interest, realize that you may need more support, and seek help.
Many students in Ghana experience significant culture shock as they have not traveled to a culture so different from their own. Do not be surprised to think “this is harder than I expected.” In general, Americans are largely uninformed about the conditions of daily life in Africa so expect the unexpected and be sensitive to preconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Ask for insight from locals and acknowledge that this is a valuable learning experience.
Know Before You Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP Travel Insurance policy is not the same as your campus or private insurance. Inform yourself before seeking care. Your UCEAP Travel Insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. You will be financially responsible for any charges for medical services that are not included benefits in the policy and for any charges over an above the “maximum allowable amount”. Your travel insurance policy number is ADD N04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
The travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. There is no deductible or co-insurance.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim process
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is the patient's responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits, and Claims Status
Contact ACI at email@example.com.
Liability insurance is highly recommended for all UCEAP students. The UCEAP Travel Insurance policy does not include liability coverage.
Personal Liability insures you against costs incurred if you cause damage to someone else, or their possessions. For example, if you cause a traffic accident on your bicycle, or if you accidently damage a piece of furniture in your homestay, liability insurance would help cover the cost to repair the damages.
Medical facilities are adequate in Accra and limited elsewhere. Local medical care is adequate for routine illnesses such as dehydration or malaria. Local physicians and medical professionals are knowledgeable and equipped to diagnose and treat conditions that are common in Ghana. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of UCEAP travel insurance.
The Study Center recommends the following facilities:
- Health Link (East Legon), Del International (East Legon)
- Ghana-Canada Hospital (Adjiriganor)
- Nyaho Medical Centre (Airport Residential)
- THREE M & C Medical Center - a new 24 hour facility in East Legon and close to campus that has a full service medical and dental care with a lab and pharmacy.
- Yeboah Hospital, also in East Legon, is less than 5 miles from campus and is another new state of the art medical facility in Accra.
You may also use the University Hospital (Korle-Bu). Korle-Bu has a convenient on-campus pharmacy near the Guest Center that is open 24 hours. Pharmacy staff members are helpful for consulting about basic needs. The Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital is the primary health care facility in Ghana. It is the only tertiary hospital in the southern part of Ghana and it is also a teaching hospital affiliated with the medical school of the University of Ghana. The hospital is large and extremely busy and chaotic compared to Western hospitals.
Ambulance service is limited in Ghana. Several hospitals in Accra operate ambulance services, but these services provide transportation and only the most basic medical care. In an emergency, call either the Study Center staff or hire a taxi.
If there are changes in your health history after you submit your health clearance to UCEAP, you must immediately notify the Program Specialist. You are responsible for your own health.
In addition to a required online UCEAP Travel Health Education Certification course, you will receive extensive health-related orientation materials, which you are responsible for reading before departure. Share all information with your parents.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center immediately. The Study Center will direct you to the appropriate clinic, provide information about the UCEAP insurance claim process, and help if arrangements need to be made with professors due to extended absence from class.
Americans are accustomed to telling their doctors what they think and what remedy they would like. This is not the case in Ghana. You should approach the local medical authorities with respect and not with a patronizing or demanding attitude, and carefully follow their instructions.
Tips to Stay Healthy
- Stay hydrated and drink only bottled water. Many students get sick because of dehydration. Ghana is humid. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion (dizziness, fatigue, weakness, drenching sweats, clammy skin, fainting, and headache) and heat stroke (hot, flushed dry skin, rapid heart rate, confusion, or loss of consciousness and convulsions). These are serious medical conditions and need to be treated immediately. For heat exhaustion, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of liquids (non-alcoholic).
- Protect against sun and heat by wearing sunscreen and a hat.
- Understand STD concepts and risks for HIV transmission.
- Protect against insect and mosquito bites, and wash hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).
- To prevent serious parasitic infections, avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, ponds, canals, streams, or rivers.
- Avoid handling animals. The rabies virus is prevalent throughout Africa. If you are bitten or scratched, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water and seek medical attention.
- Take a small medical kit containing cold remedies, cough drops, cough medicine, throat lozenges, antibacterial gel, and medications for diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach. Take enough to get you through the first few weeks until you can find what you need in Accra.
Food & Water Safety
Diarrhea is the most common illness in travelers, resulting from consumption of contaminated food and water. Take precautions:
- Consume only bottled water. Drink only known brands of bottled water and sachet water.
- Do not use tap water. Brushing your teeth, rinsing your contact lenses, or drinking beverages with ice made from tap water can be a source of contamination.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, including cream, ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream, and cheese.
- Eat only thoroughly cooked foods served hot. Avoid pork and salads. Vegetables should be well cooked and served hot. Peel fruits with intact skins before consumption. Avoid raw and undercooked eggs, and dishes prepared with raw eggs.
- Do not buy food from street vendors. Past participants have been sick with typhoid. Be careful about places where food may have been sitting out for a long period, such as buffets.
Know Before You Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
- While on UCEAP you are covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. Inform yourself, UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing physician explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it.
- If you need to find out if an appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal or unlicensed in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
TRAVELING WITH PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS
- Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is a liquid, consult the US Transportation Security Administration, Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Consult with ACI about the UCEAP travel insurance coverage for prescriptions, email@example.com. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
Mental health facilities are quite limited throughout Africa. Patients are treated in medical wards or transferred to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. Wards are crowded and often lack basic resources.
The study center utilizes a private mental health facility in Accra called The Brain Clinic
. It is manned by a first rate psychiatrist and has in- and out-patient care. Most Western psychiatric medications and other non-pharmaceutical treatments are available.
Take advantage of the Wellness Program and meetings ("Palaver Sessions") offered by the Study Center Resident Director. The Center also has a list of professionals who can help address mental health needs.
It is important to speak with returnees and gather detailed information before you leave for Ghana.
If you are currently seeing a specialist for a psychological health condition, meet with the specialist to make sure that you have a plan in place if you need to reach out to local resources.
If you are currently in treatment in the US, discuss all program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. Carry a letter from your doctor (on letterhead) indicating condition, treatment history, and medication regimen, so a local physician can assess your needs.
Consider the country where you will be living and studying. Many countries do not have adequate resources. How will you manage your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition?
If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for the length of your stay. Traveling through customs with medications for personal use can be problematic in countries where those medications are prohibited. Stimulants frequently used for attention deficit disorders, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate, may be problematic, along with narcotics. What substances are prohibited in any given country varies. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
- Do not try to manage alone. Reach out to local staff.
- The UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The required online UCEAP Travel Health course provides pre-departure health-related advice about specific precautions and recommended vaccinations. You are responsible for reading all UCEAP health-related materials.
Malaria is endemic in Ghana with perennial transmission afflicting people of all ages throughout the country. Malaria is a common, serious, and sometimes fatal tropical disease (non-UC study abroad students have died in Ghana from malaria). The highest rates of transmission occur in low-lying rural areas during and just after the rainy season. Despite rumors to the contrary, people do not become immune to malaria after having had the disease. There is no vaccination for malaria, but there is effective treatment once diagnosed.
You are required to take a malaria prophylaxis for the duration of your participation on UCEAP. Infection is spread overnight —dusk to dawn— by the biting female Anopheles mosquito. There is a high risk for malaria infection year-round.
The prescribed antimalarial prophylactic regimen does not provide 100 percent protection. You can get malaria even while taking medication, but the symptoms will be milder. To significantly reduce the risk of getting malaria, use personal preventive strategies in addition to taking the prescribed medication:
- Stay indoors, limit outdoor activities, close all doors and windows.
- Protect against bites between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, especially during the wet season.
- Sleep under an insecticide (permethrin) impregnated bed net, if possible, even when indoors.
- Wear clothing that covers arms and legs, and use an insect repellent containing DEET (at least 30 percent concentration) on exposed skin when outdoors, especially between dusk and dawn.
Take anti-malaria drugs on schedule—for the entire recommended dosing period—whether or not you think you received a mosquito bite. Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells. Malaria symptoms will occur at least 7 to 9 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Fever in the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria. However, see a doctor right away if you develop a fever at any time during your trip.
Discuss antimalarial medication details with a health professional when you get your UCEAP Health Clearance and after the online UCEAP travel health course for Ghana. For more information on malaria, refer to the, US CDC, Travel Medicine
and MD Travel
The UCEAP insurance policy will cover prescribed anti-malarial medication. Order and pay for the anti-malaria prophylaxis within 14 days before the official start date of the program and complete a claim form. Submit the claim form and a receipt for reimbursement. Make copies of all documentation.
Refer to the Medication and Supplies section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad for more information.
Note about Antimalarial Drugs
Purchase your antimalarial drugs before travel. Drugs purchased abroad may not be manufactured according to US standards and may not be effective. They also may be dangerous, containing counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are unsafe to use.
Avoid using antimalarial drugs that are not recommended unless you have been diagnosed with life-threatening malaria and no other options are immediately available.
Clothing provides a physical barrier to biting insects, provided it is sufficiently thick or tightly woven. Clothing protection is dramatically increased when the fabric is sprayed with permethrin. Far more than a repellent, permethrin is an insecticide (chemically related to the naturally occurring insecticide pyrethrum) that can be applied to clothing (as well as mosquito nets, tents, and gear). Insects are killed on contact with the treated fabric. Permethrin bonds tightly to the fabric and is effective for two weeks after spraying the fabric, and up to four months on stored clothes.
The most effective skin repellents contain DEET (at least 30 percent) and are essential to insect bite prevention. They should be applied every four to twelve hours, depending on the formulation, insect activity, and environmental conditions. Do not spray DEET directly on your face. DEET can be applied to either exposed skin or clothing. Do not apply DEET to skin that is covered by clothes or to synthetic fabrics (such as rayon) or plastics, because it can damage these products.
Repellents containing lemon eucalyptus (Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Mosi-Guard) are an alternative to DEET, but as natural repellents, they are usually not as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Using both permethrin-treated clothing and a topical DEET repellent to exposed skin is known as the DoD (Department of Defense) system, and gives nearly 100 percent protection if the skin repellent contains at least 30 percent DEET.
If you are not staying in a well-screened or air-conditioned room, spray your living and sleeping quarters in the evening with a pyrethroid-containing insecticide for flying insects. This will eliminate any insects that have entered the room during the day. You may also want to take the additional precaution of sleeping under a mosquito net. The net should extend to the floor or be tucked under the mattress to better prevent access by insects. Nets treated with permethrin are significantly more effective in preventing mosquito bites than untreated nets.
Gastro-intestinal infections are the most common illnesses that affect student and can occur in any country you are visiting. Proper food handling, drinking purified water, and maintaining good personal hygiene are key to prevention.
The source of illness is the ingestion of contaminated food or water, person-to-person transmission, or recreational exposure to bodies of water. The infective agents can be bacteria, viruses, protozoa or toxins found in food.
Good personal hygiene practices such as frequent and thorough hand washing, proper food handling, and water purification are the most effective methods to prevent infection.
Schistosomiasis (transmitted by snails living in fresh water) risk is present in the whole country, including urban areas.
Food-transmitted intestinal parasitic infections can be prevented by washing salads and vegetables or thoroughly cooking food to destroy infective eggs. Avoid raw or undercooked food that may be contaminated.
Prevent soil-transmitted infections by avoiding skin contact with the soil (do not walk barefoot or touch soil with bare hands).
Do not swim or wade in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) to avoid schistosomiasis.
Giardiasis is a worldwide intestinal parasitic infection. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, bloating, low-grade fever, nausea, and headaches. It is caused through the ingestion of contaminated food and water.
Students with immune suppression due to any medical condition, drug, or treatment have an increased risk of illness, especially malaria. For such students, prevention of malaria by avoiding mosquito bites and using chemoprophylaxis is particularly important. Discuss with your doctor whether your condition, medications, and treatments constitute contraindications to or decrease the effectiveness of any of the disease-prevention measures recommended for your stay in Ghana.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions:
- Talk with your doctor six to eight weeks before departure to discuss a treatment plan while abroad.
- Carry the medications you need, like antihistamines or epinephrine injectors with refills, to prevent an adverse reaction. Pack it in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. Your medication must be in its original packaging, and show your name.
- Have a letter from your physician to present to airport security that states your need to have the epinephrine auto injector with you at all times.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or tag with instructions in English/local language for assistance.
- Tell others about your food allergy.
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Sub-Saharan African cities are increasingly among the most polluted cities in the world. The availability of air pollution data in this region is limited. Accra is the only municipality reporting to the World Health Organization and has high levels of particulate matter contributing to poor air quality. Exposure and concentration of pollutants can adversely affect your health. When planning your trip, consider your health status, age, destination, length of trip and season to help you mitigate the effects of air pollution. Talk to your doctor.
UCEAP has established policies and procedures to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety. Your own conduct is the central factor in promoting your individual safety and well-being.
Staying safe and secure on UCEAP is a partnership between you and UCEAP and it requires you to take personal responsibility for maintaining culturally appropriate behavior, exercising sound judgment and abiding by UCEAP policies and procedures. Essential safe behaviors include being aware of the local culture and of your surroundings, understanding how your conduct and actions may be perceived, and being sensitive to the impact that your behavior could have on your personal safety.
Adopt a Lifestyle that Reduces Risk
You are safest when your fellow students, friends, and UCEAP staff look out for you. You are also expected to be responsible for your safety and well-being. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment with a limited understanding of the local culture, and the Ghanaian perception that you are wealthy because you are from the US, are some of the factors that can put your safety at risk. Change your lifestyle preferences and habits in respect of Ghanaian cultural expectations and to minimize security risks. Choices in dress, living arrangements, means of travel, entertainment, and companionship have a direct impact on how Ghanaians perceive you.
Street crime is a serious problem and more acute in Accra and other larger cities. Most reported incidents are crimes of opportunity for immediate gain, such as pick-pocketing and petty theft. Armed banditry is a concern in rural areas. Limit your display of jewelry and handle your cash discreetly. Do not take valuable items to Ghana. Wear a money belt under clothing.
Muggings, purse and phone snatching, scams, and pick-pocketing are the most common forms of crime on campus. There have been instances in the past of armed robberies in some of the University of Ghana dormitories. No UCEAP student has been physically harmed in these events. UCEAP and the University of Ghana have taken decisive measures to improve student safety in the residence halls. Know how to get help in an emergency. Compliance is the best way to mitigate the threat of violence.
Alcohol & Drugs
Drugs, including marijuana, are illegal and socially unacceptable in Ghana. You are subject to local laws and UCEAP policy on substance abuse, which include immediate dismissal from the program.
Drug related crimes are of concern in Ghana, as West Africa is a major hub for the transit of illegal narcotics into Europe and Latin America. Foreigners, including students, convicted of drug crimes can expect to face a heavy sentence. The US Embassy will not be able to assist a student arrested on drug charges. Never become involved with drugs. Neither UCEAP nor the University of Ghana will tolerate drug use.
Getting drunk, smoking, and being loud in public are not accepted social behaviors at the University of Ghana. The legal drinking age in Ghana is 18. Most restaurants on campus serve alcohol, but is not allowed in dorm rooms. Religion also influences Ghanaian attitudes towards drinking. Many Ghanaians do not drink alcohol. Limiting alcohol use will help you to control risky or difficult situations.
While you are traveling in Ghana, you are subject to its laws. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the US for similar offenses. Persons violating Ghana’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Neither UC nor the US embassy can mediate.
The University of California Education Abroad Program has established policies and procedures to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety. However, your own conduct is the central factor in promoting your individual safety and well-being.
Taking pictures near sensitive installations, including military sites and some government buildings, is prohibited. These sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions are subject to interpretation.
It is strictly prohibited to wear any military apparel such as camouflage jackets or trousers, or any clothing or items that may appear military in nature.
While somewhat improved over previous years, security is still an issue on campus and in the city. The best deterrents against crime are situational awareness and common sense. Take prudent and reasonable measures to protect your own well-being, just as you would on a UC campus. Although most students complete their program without personal safety problems, petty thefts and burglaries can occur.
Follow basic precautions:
- Stay in close touch with the Study Center and attend all meetings organized by Study Center staff.
- Keep your dorm door and windows locked at all times. Most incidents of theft on campus are opportunistic in nature, and locked doors and windows would have prevented loss. Criminal may target rooms of international students.
- Keep your belongings out of sight when in your room.
- Maintain culturally appropriate behavior. Be aware of the local culture and of your surroundings, understand how your conduct may be perceived, and be sensitive to the impact that your behavior could have on your personal safety.
- Never allow or invite strangers into your room. Do not automatically open your door to unscheduled visits by service people (laundry, maintenance) who may claim university affiliation.
- When walking, exercising, traveling, or going out at night, do so in a group. Avoid isolated areas.
- Be careful with whom you associate.
- Meet friends in public places or dorm common rooms.
- Limit alcohol consumption to maintain a high-level awareness of your surroundings.
- Avoid developing a false sense of security during your program.
- Do not count money in public. Wear a money belt under clothing.
- Never board an occupied taxi. Do not allow a second driver or passenger to enter. If this occurs, exit the taxi immediately. Passengers can be used as decoys to rob you.
- Change your lock if you are robbed.
- Avoid the services of errand boys, who can scout information and provide it to accomplices.
- If you are confronted by a thief, do not resist or fight.
If you are a victim of any type of robbery or other crime, alert the Study Center immediately.
Credit Card Fraud
While most places across the country accept credit cards, credit card fraud is prevalent throughout Ghana and most of Africa. Avoid using credit cards and pay with cash. If you must use a credit card, use it in reputable restaurants. Be present during the transaction process, and retain and destroy all receipts and carbons.
Ghana has become a significant trans-shipment point for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine from South America and heroin from Afghanistan. Ghana has taken limited steps to combat illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Trafficking has fueled increasing domestic drug consumption. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has an office in the Embassy and works closely with the Narcotics Control Board (NCB), which coordinates government counter-narcotics efforts. These activities include enforcement and control, education, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, or death.
Civil unrest in Ghana arises mainly out of political, economic, or ethnic tensions. Political rallies and protests increase significantly during election periods. Security disturbances are infrequent in Accra. When violent incidents occur, security services are able to contain the violence and restore order.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Primary roads are paved and well-maintained. Side roads in major cities and many roads outside the cities are in poor condition and add significant transit time.
Traveling in darkness outside the major cities is extremely hazardous due to carjacking attempts, the potential for armed robbery, lack of lighting, hazards posed by broken-down vehicles in the road, and the unpredictable behavior of stray/farm animals and pedestrians.
Many vehicles are unlicensed, and many drivers lack basic driver training or insurance. Emergency services are limited or nonexistent in many parts of the country. Drivers should carry spare tires, fuel, and tools on long trips, as there is no roadside assistance. Due to poor driving conditions and the poor mechanical state of many vehicles, vehicle travel after dark outside of urban areas is not recommended. There have been increased reports of vehicular fatalities over the past few years.
Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints throughout Ghana, and vehicles and passengers may be searched. Drivers must possess an international driver’s license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance). Foreign nationals should carry documentation of their status (passport, visa).
- Many commercial vehicles are in poor condition and inadequately maintained. Delays are common. Determine if driver is licensed. Check for current insurance and registration stickers displayed on windshields. Avoid vehicles in poor condition.
- Cycling is discouraged. Motorists and taxi drivers have hostile attitudes toward cyclists. Pedestrians and street vendors may act aggressively toward cyclists. Pedestrians may step in front of cyclists.
- Female students should never travel alone, particularly at night, due to the increased risk of crime and sexual violence.
- The safety standards of the small, private buses called “tro tros” are uncertain and service is unreliable.
Taxis are readily available. Few taxis have meters. Conditions of taxis vary greatly. Drivers may drive unsafely. Ask to be dropped off if the driving makes you uncomfortable.
Do not use Okadas (motorcycle taxis) as there is high risk of injury or death. Drivers often speed and drive aggressively, and use narrow alleys and walkways to bypass congested roads. Okadas have been banned in Accra but continue to operate.
Be cautious when crossing or walking along streets. Driving is on the right.
- Look both ways before crossing a street.
- Do not jaywalk.
- Drivers seldom slow down for pedestrians and honk their horn.
- Cars, trucks, motorcyclists, and bicyclists often drive very close to pedestrians on the street.
- Vehicles tend to travel at high speeds, making it difficult to brake safely.
- Many streets have open and deep drainage canals.
- Rain drains are large and seldom marked.
- Sewer systems commonly consist of deep trenches along roads.
- Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and passengers in buses, mini buses, and trucks have the highest death/injury rates.
- Exercise cation in activities that use or are near motor vehicles.
Taxi and tro-tro (minibus) drivers tend to drive aggressively. They sometimes block roads, creating traffic jams.
For more information refer to the Local Transportation chapter in this guide.
University of Ghana Access Control & Perimeter Security
There are six official entry and exit points to the campus. However, there is limited control of entry to the campus, mainly due to insufficient security staff. Vehicles that are allowed onto the site are issued a vehicle pass (student, staff, vendor, taxi, tro-tro, and bus). Vehicles not displaying a sticker are supposed to be issued a 15-minute permit. At 10 p.m. each day, campus security closes all but one gate access point to the campus. Security officers man the open access point. There is a limited perimeter fence around the campus and there are many open areas along the perimeter where the local population can easily enter. There are many dark spots—including between dormitories— around the campus with limited or no security lighting. If you must go out at night, do not go out alone.
Campus Security initially handles all incidents on-site but will pass incidents to the police when necessary. All students experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment.
Crime at the village or town level is much less frequent, but risks increase in proportion to population size. In urban areas, you must be especially security-conscious.
During the on-site orientation, a University of Ghana security representative gives advice on keeping safe: Where it is most safe to walk on campus and where it is not, and where and when you should move around with a group. They discuss areas best not passed through alone at night, and how to respond if you are mugged (e.g., not to resist and avoid looking attackers in the eyes). Procedures for being safe in the residence halls and tips on traveling at night in Accra are reviewed. Emergency phone numbers are distributed on a printed sheet and you are encouraged to enter them in your cell phone and keep a paper copy in your wallet.
Security measures at the University of Ghana campus and dorms include the following:
- Undercover guard protection and security
- Monitoring of vehicular traffic in and around the university
- A night shuttle bus available from 7 p.m. to midnight for intracampus travel
- Security walls surrounding the dorm
- Hall exterior doors are locked at midnight and opened only at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., and 4:30 a.m. to accommodate late-returning residents
- Issuing keys to student rooms—DO NOT allow anyone to borrow your key
UCEAP expects that these actions decreases the number of robberies on the Legon campus. It is impossible to guarantee complete safety anywhere in the world. Being informed and aware of your surroundings should be your priority wherever you are.
The Ghanaian Police Service (GPS) is almost solely a reactive force and demonstrates moderate proactive techniques or initiative to deter or investigate crime. Police often lack the equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies. The police have a poor record of investigating and solving serious crimes. There is a visible police presence in Accra.
Remain calm if stopped. Interactions with local police can lead to cultural misunderstandings. Do not argue with security forces. Whenever possible, contact the Study Center to report crimes or other kinds of contact with law enforcement personnel.
Sexual Harassment & Sexual Violence
There is a threat of sexual violence on the campus, primarily against female students. If this happens to you, please contact local UCEAP Study Center staff immediately.
The majority of non-US students will be interested in friendship alone, but criminal elements may use the friendship pretense to gain greater access to the student. Local students may also perceive genuine attempts at friendship to be a “come-on”. Be aware of the differences in the dynamics of male-female friendship in Ghanaian culture.
Practice risk reduction techniques:
- Do not assume that it cannot happen to you.
- Practice the buddy system when going out so you can alert your buddy if you feel threatened or uncomfortable in a situation.
- Do not go out alone at night.
- Stay alert.
- Attend the onsite workshop offered by the UCEAP Resident Director.
- Tell a roommate or friend about your travel or event plans.
- Research local resources and learn how to summon help in an emergency.
- Always have the UCEAP emergency number with you.
- Follow the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) Safety Tips
- Be informed: Read and understand the UCEAP Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy.
These four steps can help protect your friends. You can safely step in or make a difference if you see someone at risk.
- Create a distraction. Do what you can to interrupt the situation.
- Ask direct questions. Ask the person who may be in trouble "with whom did you come here?" "Do you want me to stay with you?"
- Refer to an authority. This may be the safest way for you to intervene.
- Enlist others. It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.
University of California Policy
Every member of the UCEAP community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Report to the local partners and/or UCEAP staff if you suspect one of these behaviors has occurred.
The dangers of fire are easily over looked, and incidences of electrical fires are high due to the poor quality of electric wiring and lack of general maintenance. Fire hazards and inadequate building designs for evacuation planning are also a potential problem in student accommodation blocks.
Many fire departments lack the proper equipment, particularly personal protective equipment, to thoroughly handle fires. Employee training is not always consistent.
The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) urges the public to observe fire safety precautions to minimize fires.
- When visiting markets be aware of exit routes in case of a fire.
- Residence halls are NOT equipped with fire detection devices or manual pull stations. Know how you will get out of your room in case of fire.
- Do not use candles, lanterns, and open flame devices in any residential area because they are fire hazards.
- Dial 192 in case of fire.
Flashlights and extra batteries are encouraged for power outages. Do not use candles.
Most college-related fires in the US are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the US Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security providers, US Embassy, US Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on US government-arranged flights, that require US citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its experienced security providers, is covered by UCEAP insurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
US Citizen Services
No. 19 Fifth Link Road, Cantonments, Accra
Phone: (233) 30-2741-570
Fax: (233) 30-2741-389
After-Hours Emergency: 011-233-30-274-1000
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Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
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conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.