Cameroon alumna: Study abroad is ‘how you grow’

February 21st, 2019   |   Alumni, SIT Study Abroad

a woman smiling
Chelsea Akyeampong

This article first appeared in The Daily Nebraskan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's independent student newspaper. It is reprinted here with permission.

— Ana Chincoa

Chelsea Akyeampong, a junior global studies and political science double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found cultural challenges and lessons in her study abroad trip to Cameroon.

Akyeampong found the School for International Training’s program Cameroon: Development and Social Change after reading an article on Facebook.

The semester-long program took place in cities throughout France and Cameroon in fall 2018.

Akyeampong said she became interested in the program after reading the article and decided to meet with her global studies advisor, Emira Ibrahimpasic, to discuss studying abroad. She had to get the program approved by UNL since no one had done it before her.

An internship … abroad allows students to learn by doing. What is even more special about this opportunity is that she was able to improve her French language skills and learn a local dialect.

-- Emira Ibrahimpasic, Global Studies Advisor

Ibrahimpasic, professor and special assistant director for global studies, said internships are an important part of the college experience. She said employers are looking for college graduates who not only have the required education but relevant volunteer or internship experiences.

“An internship … abroad allows students to learn by doing,” she said in an email. “What is even more special about this opportunity is that she was able to improve her French language skills and learn a local dialect.”

Ibrahimpasic said Akyeampong is one of the most inspiring students she’s worked with since starting in the global studies department.

“Working with her on selecting this particular program was easy because she knew exactly what she wanted to get out of this experience,” she said

Although Akyeampong was the only UNL student who joined the program, she met many students from other institutions around the country.

She said Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, was where she took classes and spent most of her time.

In Kribi, she learned about indigenous people like the Bagyeli who have been marginalized by foreign investors, Cameroon’s government and other groups, like the Bantus.

Akyeampong said when she spent time in the town of Batoufam, she took classes at the king’s palace and experienced village life. She also learned about the Bamileké, a people group native to Cameroon who have retained their culture despite globalization, modernization and colonization.

After crossing the Mediterranean, Akyeampong spent time in Paris and learned about Cameroonian immigration to France, which held the northern portion of Cameroon as a colony until 1960.

Besides studying, Akyeampong said she did an internship in Bertoua with a refugee organization called RESPECT Cameroon, where she taught English to students, worked on fundraising projects and translated documents from French to English.

During her internship, her biggest challenge was public speaking. She said she was scared to teach English during her first week of teaching.

“I kind of learned that I should not be scared, but they're here to learn English and I have the stuff to teach them,” she said.

Akyeampong said technology in Cameroon is expensive and not as reliable as in the U.S. When her laptop stopped working, the price of getting a technician was so high and she just bought a new laptop.

“The biggest lesson I've learned is you can't compare both places because they are totally different people and culture,” she said.

She said her experience was a process and not just about getting an A. She said people preparing to study abroad should be prepared to return more mature and open to challenges.

“That's how you grow,” she said.