Sarah Harris


Junior Communication major Sarah Harris, used her VURF Travel grant to film a documentary in Ghana with her social justice documentary class.

On her experience:

"As our class sat in a soccer stadium full of yelling and chaos on our first day in Ghana, I could not help but look around me and take in the experience. Fans were out of their seats and screaming at the field in one of the various 46 native languages. The game was between two local rival Ghanaian teams, so the crowd was even more invested. As I am looking around I see him. A tall African man with a black bomber jacket with a Confederate flag plastered on the sleeve.

This aforementioned incident was my first exposure to the cultural ignorance that permeates through the interactions between Africans, specifically Ghanaians, and United States citizens. I was jolted by the experience because it was my first day and Ghana and in true American fashion I was only seeing it from my perspective. Our class decided to go up to the man and ask him about the jacket and his response was “I like the design.” Immediately, we deduced the situation as another opportunity for us as Americans to “teach” or “enlighten” the man. We explained to him the symbolization behind the Confederate flag and the American history that is associated with the past and present implications of it. When we finished telling him, he replied “Okay. Well I still like the design.” His complete lack of interest in what we told him or the historical implications of the flag made our class aware of how important our trip was to try to bridge the gaps between Ghana and America. This experience was repeated over and over on our trip as we encountered Ghanaians who loved Donald Trump and laughed, joked and snapchatted in the slave castles.

My trip to Ghana cannot be described in a short reflection about the extreme poverty across the street from some of the most glamourous palaces I have ever seen. The trip and my experiences gave me insight to a more complex and challenging reality. I walked to through the cells of my ancestors while they waited to be shipped to the United States and saw children jumping off trash mountains in the ocean that they used for slides and diving apparatuses. For two weeks, their reality was mine. Furthermore, the people I met in Ghana were among some of the most beautiful I have ever met. Their resilience and kindness were inspiring and contagious. Their story and voices should not be victimized. They are proud of how they live and even have mentioned they felt bad for Americans for some of the conditions we encounter. They neither want nor need our pity. The trip was life-changing and unable to happen without the Center for Research and Fellowships support."


Contact Information

Center for Research and Fellowships
Garey Hall 38
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Fax: 610-519-6623

Dr. Michael T. Westrate
Director, Center for Research and Fellowships & Presidential Scholars Program

Ms. Catherine M. Stecyk
Associate Director, Center for Research and Fellowships

Dr. John J. Shanley
Assistant Director, Center for Research and Fellowships

Ms. Chelsea T. Benincasa
Program Coordinator, Center for Research and Fellowships & Presidential Scholars Program

Dr. Alexandra M. Was
Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Research and Fellowships