Senior Sociology and Anthropology double major Hannah Sweatman spent her junior year abroad in Ghana as a recipient of the highly selective Boren Scholarship.
Boren Awards emphasize language, culture, and service. They encourage instruction and research in various languages and foster national security through international relationships.
Hannah, whose hometown is Sioux Falls, SD, grew up amid an increasing population of refugees from West Africa and became interested in the languages and cultures of the region. She came to St. John’s because of the diversity on campus, the Mission, and the University’s commitment to service and social justice and service. After electing a minor in Africana Studies, Hannah found a mentor in Associate Professor Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., who encouraged her to apply for the Boren Scholarship.
As part of the scholarship program, Hannah participated in an intensive immersion program to learn the African language Twi. She studied at the African Flagship Language Institute at the University of Florida during the summer 2018 before leaving for Ghana the following fall. Although she found many English speakers in Ghana, she was determined to keep learning and speaking Twi.
“Learning the language of the community shows that you respect and value their history,” said Hannah. “It brings you closer to people, and it was important to me to learn a non-colonial language.”
As a student at the University of Ghana, Hannah lived first in an international student hostel and then moved to a Ghanaian dormitory, where she bonded with new friends over a shared love of Ghanaian music. In addition to her sociology and archaeology classes at the university, she studied with a Twi tutor. Although living in Ghana required some adjustments, including washing clothes by hand, Hannah misses the friendliness of Ghanaians and intends to return after her graduation from St. John’s.
“I never felt unsafe there,” she said. “I always felt like I could talk to people. Ghanaians are the kindest people I’ve ever met.”
Also part of the Boren experience was studying national security and international relationships. Hannah now understands these relationships at a personal level. Ghana, one of the most stable countries in West Africa, ensures its stability through peace-building activity and daily interactions.
Hannah is currently applying to the Fulbright Scholarship program to continue studying international development in Africa. She serves as the service chair of UNICEF on campus.