Study Away Recollections

Senior Global Public Health student Fanta NGom had an incredibly transformational experience while studying away at NYU Accra in Spring 2013. Learn about her semester away, the influence of the city’s one and only mental health school, and how she used the experience as a catalyst to start her own non-profit organization, P.R.O.M.O.

Fanta NGom (Center)

Global Public Health ‘14

When I decided to attend NYU back in 2010, I never imagined my NYU experience being as great and rewarding as it has been. For one, the clubs I have joined, such as the Academic Achievement Program (AAP), Black Students Union (BSU), and the African Students Union (ASU) have contributed to both my personal and academic growth. These clubs were instrumental in turning me into the leader that I am today, a leader dedicated to creating an experience full of academic and social success for all students at NYU. Throughout my years here, I took amazing classes such as Complementary and Alternative Medicine that solidified my love and passion for mental health. I hope to not only educate society about mental health, but also raise awareness, and find more effective treatments for all disorders.

 The experience that greatly affected my career path and contributed to my growth was my decision to study abroad in Accra, Ghana, my junior year. That year I took a risk; that risk was leaving behind everything and everybody and studying abroad for a whole year. I studied abroad in London during the fall and then left for Accra in the spring. At first, I didn’t really know why I made the decision to go to Accra. Yes, as an African I wanted to visit Africa, as this would be my first time on the continent. Yes, I wanted to experience a place way out of my comfort zone. And yes, I wanted to attend a study abroad site applicable to my minor and my overall interests. However, when I left Accra, I realized that I went there for a purpose; to develop a non-profit that would change the lives of many women across Ghana and hopefully across Africa.

While studying in Accra, I had the wonderful opportunity of interning at the only mental health school in all of Accra. This school, The New Horizon Special School, has both a school for children between the ages of 5 and 18 with a variety of disabilities including learning disabilities and a vocational school for adults. I worked with the youngest students at the school and it was in fact a life changing experience. I noticed how much of an impact dance and music has on one’s life and how it must be incorporated into the treatment of mental health. I realized that at the end of the day, despite their disabilities, these students were happy, loving people who should be treated no differently than the little girl or boy who goes to the school right down the road. Going to my internship was the highlight of my days in Accra. Being here really strengthened my desire to go into the field of mental health and today I am doing just that.

As a senior, it is completely normal to have anxiety about graduation and be stressed out about our career plans. However, being in Accra, made my senior year less stressful. Currently, I am developing a non-profit along with one other NYU Accra Alumna and my past mentee. This non-profit is called P.R.O.M.O.: Protecting the Rights Of the Marginalized and Oppressed. P.R.O.M.O. seeks to address cultural and societal perceptions on mental and reproductive health within Ghana in hopes of developing new ways to promote self-sustainability. By providing access to essential medical resources, health education, and a safe space for women of reproductive age and older with mental disabilities and HIV/AIDS, we hope to create a sense of belonging through a new community. Our purpose is to provide our sisters, the women in our space, with the means to self-sufficiency, which will act as an access point to establishing and maintaining happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. We seek to provide a safe space where women can be educated on mental and reproductive health issues and be provided with the resources and skills needed for self-sufficiency. Our safe space will act as a shelter for those who wish to regain their self-sufficiency and health. Our space will also serve as a temporary refuge for our non-residential sisters, where they can attend our awareness and educational programs.

Going to Accra inspired me to do this. Going to Accra made me realized how much of a passion I have for mental health. Going to Accra affected my career choices. Without this experience, I wouldn’t be able to say that I am working towards the betterment of the lives of many women in Ghana. Today, we are semi-finalist for the NYU Reynolds Changemaker Challenge! We are also in the stages of applying to various grants to fund this initiative. This spring break, we are hoping to travel to Ghana to further research our venture, meet with the Ministry of Health, see the space where we will launch our non-profit, and travel to Tamale to meet with Dr. Abdulai (5th recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice in 2012) who has a clinic in Tamale and has agreed to collaborate with us, as well as other individuals who are key to the success of our venture. Our market research done in Ghana will allow us to determine all potential start-up challenges, have a better understanding of our target market, determine our competitive analysis, and other important elements essential for a successful start-up of our non-profit.

I encourage everyone to study away and if not for a semester, go for 3 weeks, or a summer! It will honestly impact you in ways unimaginable!

Learn more about and support Fanta’s efforts in bringing P.R.O.M.O. to Ghana by visiting the group’s Gofundme page.

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