By: Alao, Abiola Sefiu, Class of 2021 Written for the Editorial Board 2019/2020.
The life of a foreign medical student on Korle-Bu campus may appear to be boring and full of challenges to someone who hasn’t really experienced it.
I mean, you’re in a foreign land, you don’t understand the language, don’t know what is or is not appropriate, can you have fun while training to be a doctor? So many questions, right?
This article may not answer all your questions, but will give you an idea on how to tweek your stay on Korle Bu campus to suit your lifestyle.
I will start by sharing a personal experience. It was my first time coming to Ghana and was to come up with a budget for a period of 4 weeks. I did! If I were to do that again, I will first of all get a contact in Ghana and ask relevant questions regarding the cost of living in Accra. Instead what did I do? I drew up my budget based on the cost of living in my home country, came in a whole lot of Naira feeling like a rich kid only for reality to set in within minutes of setting my foot in Ghana. I paid dearly for that.
My first tip to any intending foreign student will be to try to understand the cost of living in Accra, know the exchange rate (don’t rely on Google only) and get your finances right.
One of the biggest challenges you will face is getting an accommodation if your programme is non-residential. The Accra landlords and agents have their cutlery ready to feast on you. The key is getting reliable local or foreign students whom have dealt with the landlords and understand how the accommodation racket works to help you. If you do not have the energy for all the troubles, there’s always Korle-Bu International Students’ Hostel (KISH) to reside in. The disadvantage here is that it is far from everywhere and everything you need.
Food should not be much of a problem. There is an article that beautifully addresses the food concerns on the UGMSA website. (Check out our article “What to eat in Korle Bu”). Your problem may be choice of what to eat. Remember, when in doubt about what to eat forget the Jollof war and eat Ghana Jollof for the time being.
Forex as mentioned earlier can be made simple by talking to other foreign students for reliable Forex Bureau operators. Better still, you can patronize me for forex at a cool rate.
You want to socialize?
There’s always someone that fits into every slot of your ideal social circle on the Korle-Bu campus. We have a full range of students’ associations and fellowships that presents you a wide variety of social activities; you will be amazed at the eclectic mix of social activities that go down on the campus. One association tailored to meet the needs of a foreign student is the University of Ghana International Medical Students’ Association (UGIMSA), follow them on instagram @ugimsaofficial and get rolling.
The local dialects may be hard to learn, I’ve personally given up learning but if you have the potentials of a polyglot then learning the local dialects will go a long way to ease your day to day and even clinical activities. I learnt “mi nti” which means “I don’t understand” in order to get Twi speakers to speak English to me, but rather I always get a long reply in Twi which translates to “You are saying you don’t understand Twi, but how come you’re saying that in Twi”. So just save yourself the stress trying to speak Twi if you know you can’t.
The well hidden trap you will not want to fall into is what I call “The Immigration Green Snake”. The moment you are in Ghana as a student of the University of Ghana, Get your non citizen’s ID card from the Ghana Immigration Service and Submit it together with your international passport, two passport photographs at the medical school administration, you will be required to fill a form for residence permit. Ask for Mr Stephen, he is there to help you process your residence permit; all you pay for is overstay charges if you default on your residents permit.
As a rule of thumb: NEVER LET YOUR RESIDENCE PERMIT EXPIRE BEFORE GOING FOR A RENEWAL.
Defaulting on your resident’s permit may put you in an uncomfortable situation at the airport or the land borders on departure. Trust me you don’t want to get into trouble with the Authorities. Also, always have at least 7 months on your international passport. Once you have 7 months left for your passport to expire, make efforts to get it renewed to avoid touching stories.
Enjoy your stay in the Motherland, have fun and stay out of trouble.
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