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Two students from Ghana on full scholarship say cultural exchange is important

Gloria Sackey-Bobson and Rita Sedem Yaa Goka recently completed eight months of their Master of Environmental Science program at U of T Scarborough. Both students came to Canada from Ghana on a scholarship. (Photo by Raquel Russell)

For Rita Sedem Yaa Goka and Gloria Sackey-Bobson, a full scholarship to pursue a Master of Environmental Science at U of T Scarborough was a dream come true.

“I was super excited to settle down, explore and know where everything was,” says Rita Goka (BSc, 2015). “It was a rush of excitement. Everyone was very welcoming, warm, happy and friendly.”

Goka and Gloria Sackey-Bobson graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana with a Bachelor in Science. A long-term research relationship between the Professor Marney Isaac from the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources at KNUST helped make the graduate partnership possible as part of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program.

“I’ve been conducting research with colleagues at KNUST for fifteen years and it’s through that relationship that we were able to identify compatible research and learning objectives between the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, at KNUST and the Masters Program in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences,” says Isaac.

The one-year opportunity consists of two students completing eight months of course work in Canada followed by four months in Ghana where they conduct their research project. During those eight months at U of T Scarborough, home was ever present in Sackey-Bobson’s mind.

“Every time that we went to class I thought, how can I apply this information back home,” says Sackey-Bobson (BSc, 2014). “It may take a while for things like policy, but it all starts with a step.” 

For Goka, the program at U of T Scarborough has positively factored into her future aspirations.

“I need to have my Masters,” she says. “I need to have my PhD. It’s a must-have for me. Having this opportunity is just like my second step to getting to those goals.”

It wasn’t all studying and no fun. Visits to Ontario tourist sights and events were some of Sackey-Bobson’s most memorable experiences.

“We went on a lot of tours to Niagara, and we made friends through these excursions,” she says.

Thanksgiving turkey dinners, Halloween decorations and cultural days were some of the opportunities the ladies had to experience life as a student in Canada.

The International Cultural Exchange Program was most exciting for Goka.

“I was eager to meet new students, learn about other cultures and what’s going on in other parts of the world,” says Goka. “I made friends from China, South Sudan, Jamaica, Korea and Dubai.”

Dr. Steve Amisah, former Dean of KNUST, made Sackey-Bobson and Goka aware of the scholarship opportunity and says their research and experiences will influence academia and industries in the future.

“The exchange program creates a bond of friendship and collaborative links and builds synergies between Ghana and Canada,” he says.

For these two students, bonds go beyond friendship and to the very core of what it means to be an environmentalist.

“The air isn’t bounded by the boundaries of the countries we live in,” says Sackey-Bobson. “If you decide to be in Canada and observe all the use of gas, oil drills and oil sands – it’s not just bounded to Canada.”

“It tends to have ripple effects on the entire world and this is why it’s so important to conserve.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough