Tag Archives: university

Gha-na-na What’s My Name: Part Two

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Gha-na-na what's my name?

One of the things that hit me the hardest about being in Ghana was the relaxed attitudes towards education. Within Ghana, education is not compulsory nor is it affordable. Seeing young children who ought to be in school out selling items at the market was a far too common occurrence. For the most part, it was young girls who were out of school.

After a bit of probing, I found out that boy’s education was prioritised, mainly because of the gendered stereotypes that are so entrenched within Ghanaian culture. It is the responsibility of the girls to take care of all of the domestic tasks on behalf of the family so that one day they will make the perfect wife who will know how to care for her husband. The expectations placed on young girls, to me, seemed unreasonable. Girls’ education should not be neglected and it should be considered of equal importance to that of boys. Yet this is not necessarily the case.

'Seeing young children who ought to be in school out selling items at the market was a far too common occurrence' photo © Gavin Edmondstone

‘Seeing young children who ought to be in school out selling items at the market was a far too common occurrence’ photo © Gavin Edmondstone

Gender is not the only barrier to education. Low family incomes and lack of funding also play a massive part in low school attendance. Whilst out in the community of Kpunduli, I met a woman who could not afford to send either of her two teenage daughters to school.  Instead, she sent them to Accra, the capital, to earn a living at a popular hotel carrying guests’ luggage. It is a saddening and sobering thought to know that without formal education, the employment that these girls have obtained will possibly be the best employment they can gain. Yet this situation is not an unfamiliar one — many parents cannot afford to pay school fees. Continue reading

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A Love Letter to Club Mate

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Poor But Sexy: A Student Guide to Germany

After eight months here I’ve finally figured out what it is I’ll miss most about Berlin — not the Currywurst, the street art, the free-spirited nature of the city, or even the techno clubs. Nope, the thing I’ll pine for most when I’m gone costs €1 (€1.20 with the glass deposit) and comes in a little glass bottle. That thing is the notoriously addictive and hyper-caffeinated miracle-potion known as Club Mate (pronounced ‘klub-ma-teh’ for the non-German speakers among us).

'Mate Tea' or 'Yerba Mate' hails from South America, and eventually made its way to Berlin (albeit in a different form!) (Photographer: Joshua Blount; Flickr)

‘Mate Tea’ or ‘Yerba Mate’ hails from South America, and eventually made its way to Berlin (albeit in a different form!) (Photographer: Joshua Blount; Flickr)

Drinking this on the U-Bahn during your morning commute may draw some disapproving stares from the uninitiated, given that it looks suspiciously like beer, but Club Mate is actually a carbonated iced tea drink based on the famous Mate Tea which is popular in South America. Whilst I had never even heard of this drink prior to my arrival in Berlin, it burst onto the club scene in the early 2000s and has since achieved somewhat of a cult following among the local populace.

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Undiscovered Italy (Part 4): Padua

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Undiscovered Italy

Nobody likes too many tourists. Whether you look for a destination off the beaten track or that bar ‘where the locals go,’ it makes sense to try and be original when travelling. I spent a year in Italy on the Erasmus project  a program that allows students from universities all over Europe to spend a term or two studying at a partner university abroad. This mini-series will include destinations that I discovered in Italy whilst on the Erasmus project, that I feel are overlooked by those on the Italian tourist trail. Buon viaggio…

Padua's elliptical piazza, Prato dell Valle. (Photographer: Pedro; Flickr)

Padua’s elliptical piazza, Prato dell Valle. (Photographer: Pedro; Flickr)

Have you heard of Verona? Yes. Have you heard of Venice? Of course. Have you heard of Padua? Possibly not. Most people who have visited the Veneto region, situated in the north-eastern reaches of Italy, will not have stopped in this historic university city of 200,000 people. It may be hard to compete with its more famous neighbours who are heavyweights in the tourism game, but I want to convince you to pay Padua a visit. The Bacchiglione River is a very good reason, for example. The river weaves through the city’s dense clusters of arcaded streets, with many bridges crossing its path (and who doesn’t love a beautiful bridge?) Padua is also home to Prato della Valle, a vast elliptical piazza lined with spectacular statues, and arguably contributes to making Padua a worthy contender amongst its neighbours.

In all honesty, I did not have high expectations before visiting Padua. My friend Kat and I were on our way to a residential weekend in Venice when Kat convinced me that Padua was worth visiting, telling me that her sister had actually spent a year studying there, and so we booked in to a cheap Airbnb for a few days.

Whilst on our trip, we found ourselves in the Scrovegni Chapel (as the weather was not fantastic in February) but having visited it, I would recommend a trip to Padua just to see this fantastic building! The artist Giotto was commissioned by the Scrovegni family to decorate the chapel in the early 14th century and it was meant to be a private chapel attached to their home.

Scrovegni Chapel conceals 700 years worth of art within its walls. (Photographer: Rhonda Oglesby; Flickr)

Scrovegni Chapel conceals 700 years worth of art within its walls. (Photographer: Rhonda Oglesby; Flickr)

You cannot prepare for your first dazzling sight of the bright blue frescoed walls of the chapel, which are still bright after 700 years. They depict terrifying scenes of hell and poignant stories of virtues and vices, 360 degrees around the walls. We spent hours in there gazing at the various alfrescos, fascinated by the fact that Dante had probably seen and been inspired by these walls before he wrote his masterpiece Inferno. Tickets were €13 full price and €8 for students, which was pretty reasonable as access to the informative tourist centre (which explains how an alfresco is made) is also included in the ticket price.

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A Heads-Up about Bologna

Bologna is the clear choice for study abroad in Italy. Why? Well, it’s a city of 120,000 students and is a short train ride away from the home towns of parmesan cheese (Parma) and balsamic vinegar (Modena). That’s why, during my time on Erasmus in Boliwood (as it became known), my fellow students and I picked up on a few interesting morsels that will give you some idea about what it’s like living here. Here’s just a sample…

bologna_cnt_9nov09_istock_b_1(www.cntraveller.com)

Men change their minds quickly

During my time in Bologna my friends and I received invitations to ride on guys’ mopeds, were offered spontaneous proposals of marriage and were told that we had “eyes as blue as the sky”, often in the early hours and on occasion in the romantic milieu of a local kebab shop. The next day, however, suitors would either act as though they didn’t know you or instead focus their romantic advances on other Erasmus potential. Whether through embarrassment or fickleness, consistency is not their middle name.

Spaghetti Bolognese is not a thing

What we think of as “bolognese” sauce is in fact “ragu”. It has only come to be known as bolognese because Bologna produced the original and best ragu (not that I’m biased). So if you ask for spag bol you run the risk of being presented with a bowl of spaghetti in plain tomato sauce and the person offering to you will almost certainly be wearing a confused look.

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