Third week in Chapel Hill: From experiencing the Heart of American University Sports to our Travel Weekend

Basketball Game: Miami vs. UNC

Week Three of our exchange program at UNC has been a fascinating experience, culminating in our attendance at the UNC vs. Miami basketball game and our travel weekend. Our week kicked off with a relaxed gathering at Sup Dogs, a popular restaurant at Franklin Street especially known for its diverse hot dog variations, providing us with a taste of the American cuisine as we prepared for the upcoming game.

Throughout the week before, we could feel the excitement for the basketball game building up within the campus community. So, after finishing our pre-game lunch at Sup Dogs, we joined the throngs of students making their way to the stadium, blending in with the sea of the Carolina blue UNC jerseys and hoodies.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was lively and intense. The stands were filled with cheering fans, their enthusiasm contagious. Despite UNC taking an early lead, Miami’s team displayed remarkable resilience, keeping the score close throughout the game. Each play was met with applause and chants from the crowd contributing to the intensity of the match. Go Tar Heels!

As the game progressed, we found ourselves fully immersed in the experience, appreciating the passion for the sport and the sense of community among the UNC fans. We waited for the final buzzer to sound, signaling the UNC victory with the score 75:71. It was a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the role of collegiate sports in American university life, an aspect of the culture that we had heard about but hadn’t fully grasped until now.

Road trip to Wilmington: 02.03. to 03.03.

Arriving in the coastal college Town Wilmington, we, a group of five UHH students, were welcomed by beautiful sunny and warm weather, southern-looking houses with big porches, and vegetation that catapulted my mind straight into the movie “Forrest Gump.“ Palm trees and mistletoes met one another in the blue sky while our 5-seater, fully packed with people singing along to the radio and luggage, passed by the entrance sign „Welcome to Wilmington.“ First stop, the hotel we were staying at for the night. After quickly refreshing and figuring out the next steps for the day, we got back into the car and made our way downtown, where we were met with the smell of summer vacation (I bet you’ll know what smell and atmosphere I am talking about). Strolling through the historic streets of downtown Wilmington, we took every chance we got to explore small shops and take plenty of pictures of the beautiful buildings and murals. Of course, when we passed Kilwins ice cream shop we had to stop for a sweet treat!

One of our American fellows and his sister, who lives in Wilmington, joined us and took us on a little tour around downtown. This is when we learned that, indeed, alligators are roaming the waters of Wilmington (unfortunate for some, a blessing for others, we did not experience their presence during our trip).

One of the highlights from our trip was definitely spending the evening/night watching the beautiful sunset before heading down to a pizzeria and bar where we stuffed ourselves with gigantic pizzas (some of us were very delusional and thought they could finish a whole pizza all by themselves – big miscalculation) and playing board games with the American fellow, his sister, and his friends. This might sound rather boring, but we all had a blast. We ended the night with some chocolate cake and pajamas in our hotel room.

The next day started with a very American breakfast. After fueling ourselves with lots of sugary food items, we made our way to Target to get some snacks for a little picnic at the beach. Arriving at the beach, we realized that eating here might not work out the way we anticipated since the whole beach was covered in fog. Not to worry, we still got to successfully have a picnic inland.

When it was time to head back to Chapel Hill, we had lots of experiences and impressions to take bring back home with us! Not to forget, the drive home was already memorable enough. We had plenty of time to bond over music and conversations during the three-hour drive back home.

Making my way back into my bedroom, I can happily look back at this awesome weekend and the friendships that were formed. OH, an important thing to mention is that we discovered capybaras (not physically, they, unfortunately, do not exist in North Carolina), a savage animal that rides on alligators’ backs – what a legend (we made it our spirit animal for the trip and discovered there is a song worshiping these true legends)!

Travel Weekend in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, February 29th, Laura and I took a bus to Washington, D.C. After a 5.5 hour bus ride, we arrived at our hotel at 11 pm, ready for a long night‘s rest. We stayed at a very central hotel, so that we were able to mostly walk everywhere. That is why on Friday, after having pancakes for breakfast, we were able to just walk to the National Mall. Some of the most prominent sights are located in and around this park, including the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, which we found very impressive. Of course, we also went to see the White House. We finished the day by having dinner at a nice Indian place.

On Saturday, we took a look at the Supreme Court and visited the Library of Congress before splitting up: Laura then visited the Museum of Bible while I went to the National Museum of Natural History. After that, we took the metro to the Georgetown neighborhood, where we had a very yummy late-lunch at an Italian restaurant. Then, we took a long walk down M Street, which is recognized as one of the best shopping streets in the whole country. We had an amazing time going into different stores and taking in the views of the beautiful architecture outside. We finished the day by having some cookies at a famous Bakery called “Levain“, and then went back to our hotel. After an amazing weekend, we took the bus back to Durham on Sunday morning, where one of our host families picked us up.

Laura, Fahima & Marieke

Third week in Winneba

Right now, we are writing our blog entry at the university cafeteria at the North Campus of UEW, which is called Kams. Because of its central location in Winneba, its AC and its good food, it has turned into our unofficial meeting spot. During these lunch breaks, we catch up on our internships, reflect on our experiences and share how we are feeling both physically and mentally. So far, we have learned that irritation can occur both in our host families as well as at internship schools. And on a very simple note: our digestive systems have some catching-up to do as well 😉

Some favorite Ghanaian dishes (clockwise from bottom left): Groundnut Soup, Eba, Palawa Sauce, Kelewele with Casava flakes, Beans and Kenkey

The last week of our internship has started today. Everything feels so much more familiar than it did two weeks ago. Starting with the morning taxi ride to school, including the negotiation of the price and small talk with the other passengers. It has already become somewhat of a routine. When arriving at school, we greet our colleagues, exchange reports of the weekend, and banter about new hair styles or the most recent gossip in town.

Last week was under the auspices of Ghana’s Independence Day. On March 6th, 1957, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from colonial rule. All over town, the students spent days preparing for the march on Independence Day. The big event took place on the field in front of our school, where each school presented their banner while a marching band was playing. A jury voted for the best marching school and many spectators came to watch and celebrate. After the march, we had a conversation with a person who did not want to celebrate the day because of current politics. It was interesting to hear and learn about another perspective than the one that has been the most apparent in other conversations.

This weekend we visited the Assin Manso Slave River Site and the Cape Coast Castle with our buddies. There we learned about the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the interconnectedness of Europe’s, America’s and Africa’s history.

It is difficult for us to put the emotions of visiting these sites into words.

For us, experiencing these places once again confirmed the importance of being aware of the past and how it shapes the role we play as visitors from the Global North.

It also stresses the importance of the Tricontinental Teacher Training, since our goal as students partaking in the program from the USA, Ghana and Germany is to meet and learn from each other as equals.

Lastly, the conversations with our buddies are getting deeper and deeper, and we have been able to reflect on our visits to the memorials together. Slowly but surely, we are getting to know our buddies better and are excited for our time together in the Hamburg summer. Conversations about phenomena like transition jackets (Übergangsjacken), public transport and long, mild summer nights add to that excitement, for both us and our buddies. We are already looking forward to the time when the subway rides to the internship schools become a routine for our buddies as the morning taxi rides to school have become one for us. Maybe we will even need Übergangsjacken in June. You never know in Hamburg.

Carlotta & Paula

Second week in Winneba

Prof Dandy was a guest lecturer at the Universität Hamburg during the winter semester of 23-24. Last week, he returned home. We are all super excited to meet him here in Winneba. He came back to Ghana over the weekend, but he went to see his family in Cape Coast. Before going there, he spent some time with some of us in Winneba. We sat at the Club House at the UEW, had a beer, and enjoyed some nice barbecue. The conversations and discussions with him are always fruitful, insightful, and refreshing like the Ghanaian Club beer.

After two weeks in our host families, most of us feel at home. Living with them in their houses and taking part in daily lives feels like being part of the family. But also, the other Group of Students from the Universität Hamburg are great.

The time is running and the days are over just as quick as the snip in the Ghanaian handshake. But before we are ready to realise that our second week is almost over, we are about to start our first educational trip. The Ghanian clock is ticking differently so we are not surprised that we start our trip 2,5 hours later than expected. A three hours drive through the crowded streets of central region brings us to our first destination, the Aburi Botanical Gardens. A guide has prepared a tour and shares all the impressive information about the trees planted over one hundred years ago. We are continuing our trip to Accra to visit the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Kwame Nkrumah was the very first President of Ghana and played a main role in the independence gained in 1957.

On our way home we are all tired as a trip with 40 teachers can be as exhausting as with 40 students.

Sunday we have the chance to recharge our energy and reflect on the last two weeks. We are meeting up with only the German students to talk about our impressions and thoughts. The open room for communication is very important from time to time as one experience so many new things in a short amount, it’s hard to process. Exhausted but full of excitement for the upcoming two weeks we are ending our half time in Winneba, Ghana.

The hesitation from the kids in the beginning becomes less and they are starting to talk to us and ask a lot of questions about our language and our country. We are getting used to the differences in the educational system and we have the chance to learn from one another. We are all making different experiences from good to bad, but all are a lessons we can learn and develop from. The students are warming our hearts with their beauty from inside and out and their never ending laughter. We already know that their faces will be missed when we are heading towards home again.

The Mausoleum of Kwameh Nkrumah in Accra
Inside Aburi Botanical Gardens
The TTT Participants inside Aburi Botanical Gardens
Inside a classroom at our hosting school

Emma & Felix

Second week in Chapel Hill

Time flies when you’re having fun was really the motto of our second week in Chapel Hill.

On Monday, we finally had our first day at our placement schools. All the UHH students received a school placement based on their field of study in Germany. All of us are placed in the Carrboro and Chapel Hill Area and have lovely mentor teachers who answer all our questions and introduce us to American elementary, middle, and high schools. How exciting! 

As the TTT program is part of the “Blockphase” for the KP1 or 2, we get to do all sorts of different activities like shadowing our mentor teachers and other teaching staff during their lessons, co-teaching certain parts of different subjects or even taking over the classroom for a few periods at a time. Of course, our mentor teachers are making sure that everything goes smoothly, and we all received a warm welcome at the respective schools. 

During the week we got to spend the mornings and early afternoons at our placement schools with our mentor teachers, mostly observing and learning our way around the new school system. 

Some interesting things that we noticed were the following:

  • All our schools’ hallways are decorated and personalized to make the students feel welcome and comfortable.
  • However, all visitors of the schools must check in at the front office on a designated computer that takes a picture of your face. This is a safety measure we were not prepared for.
  • A lot of teachers are very student-orientated and talk to them a lot more casually than what we were used to from Germany like “Hi Bestie!”
  • A lot of schools let students retake quizzes and assignments to help the students succeed and learn from their mistakes.

All of us can take three flex days off from our placement schools to work on our UHH assignments or decompress from all of the new impressions. Some of us used this opportunity to further explore the UNC campus and to buy UNC student merch at one of the many stores that line Franklin Street (the main street next to the UNC campus). 

During the afternoons of week two, the teaching department of UNC opened its doors to us. We had the opportunity to sit in and participate in different teaching seminars of the MAT program. Apart from the seminars, we also used the time in the afternoons to spend some more time with our buddies or host families. 

After plenty of new impressions from school, seminars, and the UNC campus, we ended the week with a lovely happy hour at the local bar “TRU”. Afterward, some of us fell right into bed while others went out to a birthday party of one of our UNC TTT fellows. This was a blast, but an important side note is that you must keep in mind to bring your ID to every restaurant or place if you plan on enjoying a drink (containing alcohol). It is very common for everyone (no matter their age) to get carded when ordering a drink, and some restaurants even wanted to see our passports. 

On Saturday, we (including Andreas Bonnet and Claus Krieger) went on another trip to Durham. Public transportation is completely free in North Carolina, so all 11 of us hopped on a bus at Franklin Street which took us straight to Durham. The city is home to the rival university of UNC called Duke. Apart from the rivalry, it is an awesome place to spend your time and we strolled around the local food haul and visited a farmers’ market together. After everyone could grab a coffee or beverage of choice, Taylor took us to visit a flea market and we had a ton of free time to explore Durham’s old Tabacco district (an area rich in history that was transformed into cafes, shops, and other great hang out spots).

The week ended with a free day to process our impressions and experiences from the second week. This was nice because we were able to choose what we wanted to do and were able to head into week 3 fully recharged and excited for more new experiences and uncertainty.

Alexa & Kevin

First week in Winneba, Ghana

Akwaaba! – das heißt willkommen auf Twi. Damit wurden wir in den letzten Tagen herzlich begrüßt. Unsere erste Woche in Winneba ist nun schon vorbei und wir können auf viele spannende Erfahrungen zurückblicken.

Als wir am Sonntagabend nach einer langen Reise am Accra Airport ankamen, wurden wir sofort herzlich von Rhoda Mahama, unserer Koordinatorin, und weiteren Projektteilnehmern begrüßt. Es war direkt für alles gesorgt – wir bekamen ghanaische Sim-Karten und konnten Geld wechseln, um uns Wasser und Snacks für die Fahrt zu kaufen. Mit dem Bus ging es dann nach Winneba zum Student Centre, wo wir von unseren Gastfamilien abgeholt wurden.

Nach einer recht kurzen Nacht lernten wir unsere Buddys endlich auch in echt kennen. Bei der Willkommensveranstaltung erfuhren wir wichtige Infos über Winneba und die UEW und konnten die gesamte TTT-Gruppe kennenlernen und uns austauschen. Mit einem offiziellen UEW-Bus wurden wir danach ein erstes Mal zu unseren Praktikumsschulen gefahren und konnten bereits kurz mit den Schulleitungen oder Mentor:innen  reden. Im Anschluss gingen wir gemeinsam etwas essen und ließen den Tag dann mit unseren Gastfamilien ausklingen.

Während unseres Aufenthaltes in Winneba sind wir in Gastfamilien untergebracht. Es gibt Studierende, die ganz alleine in der Gastfamilie sind. Ein paar sind auch zu zweit. Das Leben in der Gastfamilie bietet einen tieferen Einblick in das Leben in Ghana. Ein Aufenthalt im Hostel bietet dies nicht. Die Gastfamilien sind sehr bemüht den Aufenthalt für uns so angenehm wie möglich zu machen. Trotzdem ist es den meisten Familien auch wichtig uns ihre Sprache, die traditionellen Gerichte und Lebensweise zu zeigen. Daher kommen jeden Tag neue Gerichte auf den Tisch, die probiert werden müssen. Einige Gerichte schmecken gut, aber einige Gerichte sind auch zunächst gewöhnungsbedürftig für den europäischen Geschmack.

Am Dienstag war unser erster Schultag! Franzi, Jacky und Svenja (die, die den ersten Blogeintrag verfassen) sind zusammen an der University Practice School North, das ist eine staatliche Junior Highschool. Wir wurden unseren Mentor:innen vorgestellt und durften sie am ersten Tag bei ihrem Unterricht begleiten. Jacky durfte bei ihrer Mentorin die Mathe Stunden hospitieren, Franzi Englisch und Svenja Social Sciences. Die erste Stunde war für uns sehr spannend. In einem Klassenraum sitzen circa 40-50 Schüler:innen. Die Unterrichtsstruktur unterscheidet sich deutlich vom deutschen Unterricht. Ein Lehrbuch hat, wenn es überhaupt eins gibt, nur die Lehrkraft vorliegen. Die Schüler:innen haben Hefte, in denen sie alles vom Whiteboard abschreiben. Manchmal wird den Kindern auch diktiert, was sie aufschreiben sollen.

Bei der zweiten Stunde stellten wir dann schnell fest, dass wir uns wohl heute 4x exakt dieselbe Stunde anhören dürfen. Denn der Stundenplan der Lehrpersonen sieht so aus, dass sie 2-3x die Woche in einer Klassenstufe (in unserem Beispiel Klasse 9) ihr Unterrichtsfach in jeder Parallelklasse einmal unterrichten. Das heißt, sie wandern von einem in den anderen Raum und fangen wieder mit demselben Thema an. Das war für uns aber in der ersten Woche ganz praktisch, da es noch nicht so leicht für uns ist, die ghanaische Aussprache von vielen englischen Wörtern zu verstehen. So haben wir spätestens beim vierten Mal endlich alles im Unterricht verstanden.

Ansonsten ist die Schule sehr einfach gehalten, es gibt für jede Klassenstufe ein kleines Haus. Die Klassenräume haben ein Wellblechdach und Lochsteine als Fenster. Diese Räume müssen die Schülerinnen und Schüler jeden Tag vor Schulbeginn selbst reinigen. Der Schultag beginnt also um 6:30 Uhr. Nach dem Säubern des Geländes folgt das Morning Assembly mit dem Singen der Nationalhymne sowie trommeln, marschieren und beten. Erst danach beginnt um 8:00 Uhr der Unterricht und geht bis circa 14:00 Uhr, dabei entspricht eine Unterrichtsstunde einer Zeitstunde.

Das ist die Schule.
Stundenplan einer neunten Klasse

Nach der Schule treffen wir uns häufig in der Mensa der UEW. Diese ist gut von den Schulen aus erreichbar und vor allem klimatisiert. Dort gab es für die meisten entweder gebratenen Reis oder Frühlingsrollen. An traditionelle ghanaische Gerichte haben wir uns außerhalb der Gastfamilien noch nicht herangetraut. Ein kaltes Wasser oder eine Cola sind bei den Temperaturen auch ein MUSS!

Jeden Freitag treffen wir uns im Student Center mit allen TTT-Teilnehmer:innen aus Deutschland sowie Rhoda Mahama unserer Koordinatorin, um die Woche zu reflektieren. Im Anschluss haben wir in dieser Woche die German Unit der UEW am Hauptcampus besucht. Hier gibt es ca. 300 Lehramtsstudierende, die Deutsch als zweites Fach belegen. Es war spannend sich mit den Deutsch-Lernenden zu unterhalten und auszutauschen.

Auch in der Freizeit unternehmen wir als Gruppe viel gemeinsam. Häufig sind auch unsere Buddys aus Ghana dabei. Beispielsweise waren wir am Mittwoch alle gemeinsam auf einem Konzert am Campus der UEW. Dort sind Tanz- und Musikgruppen der Universität aufgetreten. Auch wir haben viel getanzt. Heute gehen wir gemeinsam an den Strand.

Wir könnten wahrscheinlich noch viel mehr schreiben. Das reicht jedoch erstmal für die erste Woche.

Franziska, Jacqueline & Svenja

First week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The time has finally come: StudyCamp has begun for us UHH students, and here is the first blog entry about our experiences during the first week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina! 

For the entire winter semester, the 11 students of us were eagerly awaiting our big trip across the pond. We arrived in Chapel Hill last Friday (02/09/2024) with all our excitement and anticipation in our luggage. Our host families all warmly welcomed us. After a restful night, we finally got to know all our American buddies and Taylor, the coordinator of the TTT in the USA, in a „soft“ kickoff on Saturday. Getting to know each other in the famous Chapel Hill bar „He’s Not Here!“ couldn’t have been nicer with 20 degrees Celsius and sunshine (& that in February!, which is so unusual for us Hamburg people)! (A little background to the name of the bar according to our host father: „He’s Not Here“ means the answer on the phone from the husband’s friends to the wife that her husband is „not here“ in the bar (although obviously, the whole group of boys is drinking beer there at the time) / fun fact: we only met young groups of students here, so not just husbands without their wives, either way, it was a perfect start to our time together!). 

On Sunday evening, another highlight followed as an authentic American Superbowl party was organized by Taylor with the whole UNC buddy group at one of the host families – it was a fantastic experience! There was pizza galore & it felt like we had all known each other for ages!

Then, our first week started with a delicious cup of coffee at the Epilogue Cafe. Afterwards, Taylor showed us around Chapel Hill, and it was our first time to see the beautiful university campus of UNC and the big football stadium where over 50.500 people cheer for the North Carolina Tar Heels (which is a small stadium compared to other university football stadiums in the USA – but for us, it was huge and impressive). It was also great to get together at the Welcome Event.

We also had the opportunity to visit the “Carolina Friends School,” a private school in Durham. We all agreed that this was a really interesting experience for all of us, and we enjoyed getting a tour of the different school buildings. The school is surrounded by trees. Being close to nature and having no grades plays a big role, as well as the principle that the students can change the world. 

On Wednesday, Taylor brought us coffee on campus. We had the opportunity to talk to the faculty of the UNC School of Education and ask them all our questions. Afterwards, a tour guide showed us many beautiful places on the campus, and he presented many interesting facts about the UNC campus – so it’s definitely a recommendation if you want to learn more about the universities and the buildings on campus.

On Thursday most of us got to shadow our buddies and gain first insights into public schools. For me that was so exciting! Visiting a kindergarden class was different from my previous experiences in german elementary schools. The students were just around 5 years old and had a really long school day from 8 AM to 3 PM. On the picture below you can see their school pledge, which is read by a student every day in the morning announcement (go little Tar Heels!). On the next day we visited our placement schools for the first time, which was, and I think we can speak for everyone here, very exciting. These are the schools we will spend most of our time in the next couple of weeks. Personally, I am placed in a spanish-english bilingual school which definitely is a special experience. My mentor teacher showed me around and introduced me to the class that welcomed me warmly. She really seems to love teaching and I am so looking forward to join her and gain new experiences and perspectives. Also I am looking forward to all upcoming conversations, since all of us will gain different insights.

Finally, after a long week with exciting experiences and a lot to process we all started into our weekend with our Buddies-Days, where all of our buddies arranged something for us to do. I heard about everything from fascinating board-games to  pottery painting and of course loads of good food. We spent our day at a baby goat festival (just look how cute they are!) and at target (that’s for sure an experience as well). Thanks to all of our buddies, Taylor, our mentor teachers and host families (and of course everyone else involved)  for welcoming us so warmly and making sure that we’re looking forward to the upcoming weeks!

Josephine, Celina & Mila