In California, registering for classes is simple- maybe a little research, maybe an advising appointment for peace of mind and….maybe 3 clicks of a mouse. Good to go. The school knows you are there, your teacher knows you are coming, and best of all, there is no question of what classes will be like on the first day of school. Done. Registered. Simple as cake.

Ghana is another story. All registering is done manually, in person, on the first day of school- at least for international students. To me, this meant nightmare. The lady that did our orientation about how to sign up and register for classes, laughed when I asked about the science department.  She looked at me and said, almost sweetly, “Honey, they do their own thing.”

That was it. That was all the instruction I had before my first day of school. The sciences do their own thing….nightmare.

The uneasiness that was beginning to fade came back. Everyone else knew exactly what classes they had at what time. The time tables were posted, outside and easy to read. The classes offered were straight forward. No questions.

Not the sciences. No timetables, no list of classes offered. Nothing. School started in 12 hours.

Not only do I not know a thing about how to manually register for classes, this campus is so big that I do not even know where the classes or departments are. Needless to say, I woke up early in the morning and went on my way. Alone. With no direction. No information. Nothing but a list of classes that I wanted to take, if offered, and a map of this endlessly large school.

After 3 hours of walking back and forth from building to building, and getting the courage (yes, it really did take a lot of courage) to ask for help, I was manually registered. Thank goodness. Comparative Physiology, Chordate Physiology, and Principals of Genetics here I come.

I walked into my first class 10 minutes early. The only person sitting there was another international student. Uh-oh. I picked a seat right next to her and before I had a chance she said “There is class today right?” Read my mind exactly. Thank goodness two obrunies (what Ghanaians call foreigners) sitting in a classroom alone together. Strange as it seems, for the first time in days I was calm.

Slowly, other people trickled in. Many people surrounded us and asked us our names, where we were from, and what classes we were taking. In Ghana, Abigale is a very common name. But my name is not Abigale- my name is Abby. However, here it does not seem to matter- I am obruni Abigale. Now if class would just start. After 45 minutes, of what was supposed to be an hour lecture- the other students explained that the professor was not in today- maybe he would be here next week. We packed up our things and headed for the door. Two hours later, and a mile long walk (at least), and several blisters on my poor feet, I was back in the same seat, next to the same exchange student. Where was the professor? Not here today. I packed up my things and headed for the hostel.

Finally, another 2 hours later, another mile long walk, and even bigger blisters, I went back to another class. This is when it decided to poor rain. I don’t know why, but when I think of Africa, I never thought of rain. Rain in Africa? It’s hot- no rain. Total misconception. It is infact, extremely hot in Ghana. Can’t even walk down a flight of stairs without a little trickle of sweat on your forehead. And it’s also raining in Ghana. So now I am sitting wickedly hot, soaking wet, in front of a classroom 1 mile away from my hostel, waiting for the professor. Thankfully, the same international student was with me. Still no professor.

When all hope was lost, something fabulous happened, a group of Ghanaian students, who had been in class with us earlier, jumped out of their car in the pooring rain and shouted, “THE PROFESSOR IS NOT COMING TO THIS CLASS EITHER, GET INTO THE CAR- WE WILL TAKE YOU HOME!” woooow. Thank goodness! No ruptured blisters. No wet clothes that will never dry. A ride home. In the car, the students explained to us that often times, the professor does not show up for the first week of school. First week? That prompted me to say “Oh thank goodness, then I will not get up early to go to class tomorrow”. They all laughed. “No obruni, you still need to go to class just in case.”

In California, the professors almost always show up for class. The students…….maybe. In Ghana, the students must always come to class, but the professors- not necessarily. I have never heard of a system like it. But at the end of the day I am now Obruni Abigale, and I have some new friends. Reggae concert tomorrow? Perhaps!