MS NEWS: 'It's all about the little things'

How Ghana and United States compare to CMU student

ఈ కథనాన్ని తెలుగులో చదవడానికి క్లిక్ చేయండి

At Central Michigan University, some of the smells that you come across are exhaust from vehicles, nearby factories, hints of fertilizer and heavy notes of chemicals that are not even in an average person’s vocabulary. But to some people, like Akua Acheampong, the smell is vastly different than what she is used to.

“When you step in America, the air is just different, it smells chemical,” Acheampong, a 19-year-old political science major and freshman at CMU, said. “Back home you can taste the chlorophyll.”

The “home” Acheampong is talking about is Ghana, a country in West Africa where she was born and raised. She described her hometown as a peaceful, sociable place where fruit grew easily and tasted better than the mass-produced ones in American grocery stores.

The air and food quality are just some of the many stark changes Acheampong faced when she arrived in the United States for high school back in 2019. While these things stood out to her, what impacted her the most was the difference in Americans’ attitudes.

“It’s very communal there, but America is more individualistic,” Acheampong said. “Coming from an environment where everyone says ‘Good morning’ to here where you get weird looks for saying hi … it was definitely a cultural shock.”

Despite these differences, there is something Acheampong said the countries had in common, and that’s the political systems in both countries.

When she was younger, Acheampong was interested in politics and wanted to do something involving law. When she first arrived at Central, she dabbled in business administration but said she never felt as passionate about it as politics. 

As a result, she switched to a political science major, and is considering a master’s in public administration.

“This way I still get to do what I love,” she said. ”And I could possibly go into law in the future with (a master’s)."

Acheampong said that Ghana has a multi-party political system, but similar to the U.S there are two parties that dominate: The National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party. She said both parties claim they are stable, but they’re not.

“Both countries are very polarized right now,” she said. “People are complex, no one is purely evil or an angel. But the parties keep pointing fingers at each other and alternating, so people are getting tired. It’s a select elite benefitting while the regular people are just there.”

Acheampong said that just like politics, she feels that diversity efforts on campus are “all talk” on an administrative level.

As an example, Acheampong is a member of the Student Government Association, and she serves on the Diversity Committee. She said that recently the committee has created five to six subcommittees to focus on different areas like heritage months or demonstration efforts. She said the committee as a whole has a budget of $500, and they have to stretch those funds throughout the entire school year and across the subcommittees.

“It’s so heartbreaking,” she said. “They talk about this strategic plan to create a community for those that are different to be comfortable on campus, yet only give $500 for us to split … That’s not inclusivity.”

She said that a possible solution to this problem is for the administration to talk to students about diversity efforts and listen to their concerns.

“Central is great, but it could be better,” Acheampong said. “It’s all about the little things; smaller changes like more faculty interactions outside of classrooms or raising student workers’ pay would be a great start.”

Despite her frustration with diversity funding on campus, she said there are places on campus she feels like she belongs. Along with SGA, Acheampong is a member of multiple registered student organizations, such as the National Black Law Students Association, Coalition for Black Empowerment, Black Girls Rock and more.

“It’s great to have a lot of people with similar cultures be brought together,” she said. “It’s calming to be around, and they bring out something beautiful. I feel like we need more of that.”

Acheampong said that the NBLSA is working on setting up a gala event sometime in April, which she described as “a prom for college students” where people could relax and have fun before finals begin.

While Acheampong said she’s currently not sure about her next steps, she would love to go to law school in the future if she had the funds. Similarly, she said she would love the chance to return to Ghana again, when she is able to afford it.