PA Virtual Grad in Ghana

An Essay by Elias Harkins, Class of 2013

When I graduated from PA Virtual in 2013, most people called me Eli, or if they wanted to use my full first name, Elias. This year, though, I found that I have a completely different name unknown to my parents or me. To learn this new name, I had to travel 5,000 miles from my hometown of Hershey to the wonderfully welcoming African country of Ghana.

I should first begin with what brought me to Ghana. After graduating from PA Virtual in 2013, I became a student at Messiah College, a small liberal arts college in Grantham, PA. There I am a junior in the biopsychology program, a major that combines several of my favorite topics, which are the sciences of biology and psychology. It also utilizes my love for the way diverse topics can be brought into synthesis. The field of biopsychology fundamentally delves into how our biology can impact our psychology and vice versa.

This major was not simply chosen for curiosity, but also for passion. It wasn’t until I completed my Graduation Project, a job shadowing experience with a physician at Hershey Medical Center, that I realized medical school was truly for me. Along with my major, I also needed more experience in the medical field in order to follow this passion.  I am very fortunate that my father is a physician at Hershey Medical Center, and that is affiliated with a program called the Global Health Scholars Program. It was through this program that my father was traveling as a faculty member to Ghana to teach physicians there about surgical procedures. In February, 2016, I was the very special extra piece of baggage he brought.

I had an absolutely amazing time immersing myself in the Ghanaian culture, as well learning a wide variety information about their medical system, including watching live surgeries! I was able to eat local food including fried plantains, freshly picked coconuts, and dried cocoa beans (perfect for someone from Hershey!!).  I went to markets and even purchased a shirt which my photo attached to this article celebrates!  I was able to learn some words in the local Twi language like Akwaaba which means “hello” or “welcome.” I also learned my Ghanaian name.

Ghanaian names are often assigned based on the day of the week on which you were born, your age in relation to other siblings, and the circumstances of your birth. As someone born on a Sunday, as the first child in my family, and as a premature baby, my name would be Kwasí Píésíe Nyaméama!  I encourage everyone reading this to look up his or her own name and to read about Ghanaian culture.
Me daa si!  Thank you!

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