4 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes, 20 seconds and counting

Back in 6th form like many other students I was really confused about what to do after A levels: everyone seemed to be going to university and I had no idea if this is what I wanted to do and if it was; What would I study?, Where would I go?

After looking at many different courses I decided that I wanted to study Environmental Science, but I still had to decide where I wanted to go. I have always loved to travel and so when I read the prospectus for Lancaster University the opportunity to study abroad in my second year was too good to miss. All I had to do now was to achieve AAB in my A levels and 60% in my first year at Lancaster.

It didn’t seem like I was at Lancaster two minutes before it came around to end of exam celebrations and now after achieving the grades I need I am going to be flying out to Calgary in less than a week! I keep telling  people that I’m going to Canada on the 4th of September (I feel like I’ve said it a million times) but I still don’t believe it! I keep saying that I’m so excited but the truth is I don’t really feel like it’s actually going to happen! There’s been so much to sort out this summer; flights, accommodation, visas and trying to decide what I need to take with me!! I’ve just been making so many lists and hoping that I don’t forget anything important!

After barely having any room left in the car when I went to Lancaster last year I didn’t think I would fit all my stuff in a suitcase! I haven’t quite managed to fit everything in a suitcase but here are the two I packed this morning!!!

Lydia Cowell_Suitcase

I have been a bit unsure on how cold it’s going to be, temperatures in the winter can fall to -10 degrees but everyone seems to say that it’s a ‘different’ cold to Europe (Whatever that means!?) Anyway I know there is going to be lots of snow so I have my ski jacket, my salopettes and these snow boots that I got the other day!!!
Lydia Cowell Sallopetts

I am going to be flying out to Calgary on Sunday (my first ever time going abroad on my own!!), I’ve managed to get a direct flight from Manchester which I’m glad about. I am going to be 4,222 miles away from home, a lot further than the 1.5 hour journey to Lancaster!!

I’ve never been to Canada, or even North America before so I don’t really know what to expect but I’m very excited to travel into the Rockies and maybe even learn how to ski!! Calgary is known as ‘Cowtown’ for the Wild West culture and the world-famous stampede that happens every July (Unfortunately I won’t be there for it though 🙁 ) I am really excited about exploring the city, there’s quite a lot to see; Calgary tower, the zoo, the Olympic park….

Lydia Cowell_Calgary

This week is going to be full of goodbyes and the stress of getting ready to go but hopefully it will all be worth it!!
I’ll keep you all updated on my travels
Until next time,
Lydia x


Sometimes life gives you lemon and sometimes it gives you a wrinkled brown thing; it just seems purely useless. Unfortunately,this is a part of life, so sometimes it is difficult. This post is dedicated to those times when it’s just not working out . It’s perfectly normal if you’re unhappy at one point even when everyone else is happy.

If you’ve read the previous posts, you might think this summer programme has been amazing. Well, I too have my cloudy days. During our stay here, especially in the first three weeks or so, we had a colossal amount of work. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Let’s do the Maths: Reading reflections were due every midnight after a class day, which was three days a week; three site visits or guest lecture reviews per week; weekly journal for two different modules each week; and each work is around 500-600 words each. All that adds up to around 4200 words a week. Not to mention, we have our placements and the three classes per week last for 3.5 hours each. At this point, the trips designed to de-stress had become more work rather than relaxation.


All of that workload really took a toll on all of us. However, this creates a sense of mutuality between us; we got through it together, in the end we bonded through our mutual view toward the  amount of work.  Lacking sleep and free time, we naturally made time for self-recovery or calling family members (when the WiFi wass working) rather than socialising during the short breaks we have.

During my stay here, there was a day when all I wanted to do was go home. This is the thing about these kind of days: you might have finished all your work already (I did), it might have been an easy day (it was), but you’re homesick. At that time, I couldn’t call home because it was 5pm here, which means it’s midnight back at home in Indonesia. Other people seem fine and I couldn’t relate with their smiley demeanour. On days like this, I made sure I was  well-fed (not eating will make you more grumpy!) and call it a day early. I’m the type of person who feels better listening to a mellow song, so I played one and go to bed. It happens, but like the WiFi breakdowns at our hotel, it doesn’t last forever!

Finally, don’t think badly of yourself when this happens. Some people need to rant when this happens, some people call home, some people have their own karaoke session, some go to sleep, but for all cases the good lemonade will finally out spill the bad lemonade in good time.

(Thanks to my friends for giving me some space instead of being nosy at that time and especially Maria for being my hand model for this post)

Love (Ghana)

Unfortunately, this is not a RomCom story where I meet an unrealistic guy who swept me off my feet; no, it’s just a story about the loveliest places in Ghana. We visited many more places in Ghana, but here are some of the most touristy sites that made my heart flutter (ew).


Eat, Pray, Love part3a

Admit it, when someone mentions they’re going to Africa, you’d think of a savannah, with zebras and lions, or maybe straight up Lion King. It is a must-have experience in Africa and thankfully, I got to see one out of the three things I mentioned. Check the first (top) picture of yet another collage, which shows the view from the top of one of the rocky hills of Shai Hills. After seeing some baboons and ostrich in their sanctuary, we drove across that vast savannah on our regular bus with a tour guide and were dropped off at one of the hills. This hill was said to be the easiest one to climb. Yes, with no warning whatsoever, a ride on the bus turned into an easy climb up the hill, which later turned into a less easy rock climb. With all my wisdom, I wore my Converse that day, which was not very reliable in terms of keeping me from slipping. Fortunately, the rope didn’t fail on me and I managed to focus all my weight onto my grip – no more slipping for me. Even more fortunate, I got to see that view from the top of the hill. It was just a very serene feeling once you get to the top, seeing so much greenery on the land underneath. It was the kind of feeling that cools all your senses despite being closer to the boiling sun that was roasting the top of my head. A special mention to Adela, who conquered her fear of height and managed to enjoy this view with us.

The second picture shows a beach not far from Accra, called Bojo Beach. It is only around an hour away from where we stay and that’s with traffic, which is very decent considering the heavy traffic in Accra. Bojo beach offers us a much needed escape from Accra after two weeks of staying in the hotel most of the time. Also, after being let down by the previous two beaches in Cape Coast and Keta Lagoon where the beaches are nice, but not suitable for swimming and we didn’t have time, I finally got to experience a beach in Ghana! To get to the beach, you have to cross a small area of water using a canoe, shown in the picture (yea, that’s not the beach). I will be as honest as a a Tripadvisor review and say the beach isn’t all that. However, it made to the top three thanks to my friends who turned it into a great time. Lisa shared the same enthusiasm for standing in the water, waiting for the waves to smash us (which is what we did), so we did that for a total of around three hours. Sunbathing, eating okay food, desperate Pokémon hunting, all the usual stuff, but it was special because I spent it with the people I actually want to hang out with.

Last is Kakum National Park, and it is last simply because the collage looks nicer if Bojo Beach is in the middle. This place is probably my favourite touristy place of the trip (though Shai Hill is probably my favourite, too), where I got to walk on 40 metres high canopy walks, surrounded by so much green and magnificent trees. While walking on the canopy walks, it was important to keep walking and not stopping for too long, because the pressure on the ropes and the platform posted on the trees were going to build up. The pressure on the tree might had been quite high, but not as high as the pressure on the people walking on it who kept getting yelled at to keep moving (not in a supportive way). Because of this, I didn’t really have a chance to relax and enjoy the view or even take as many picture as I hope I would. Nonetheless, it was a new experience for me and despite it passing through  quickly compared to the long drive to get there, it was definitely worth it.

Eat, Pray, Love part4


  • Cape Coast – we stayed at Coconut Grove, a very nice beachfront resort that makes our usual hotel looks much worse than before. We went to Kakum National Park from here.
  • James Town – a fishermen village. Not a very touristy place, but it was a meaningful experience that let us see a different side of Accra.
  • Elmina Castle – also in Cape Coast, a castle that was built in 1482 and was a centre for slave trading. It was a necessary tour to increase our awareness of the history of Ghana.
  • Keta Lagoon – a small town with good seafood and the practicum supervisor’s hometown! He and his father even welcomed us to their home; it was too sweet for words.


Religion (mainly Christianity) is a big part of Ghana. As someone from Indonesia, which is a Muslim country and on some levels can be quite similar to how religious Ghana is (writings on the public transports and we have religious TV shows), but I was still quite surprised by how it is such a big part of the country. To show this; two days after we went to Republic Bar, we were scheduled to went to a church! The church we went to was massive and people were dressed up to the nines. It gives you the feel of going to see a gig, especially with the lighting, the stage at the front and five singers singing harmoniously, accompanied by a live band. People are also very open about religious their beliefs here. For example, one of the first questions I was asked by our supervisor and colleague in my placement was what my religion is.

Eat, Pray, Love part 2

Even as you drive along the roads of Ghana, you’ll see a lot of billboards advertising religious events, public transports with religious remarks on them and even at a random shop, like the top right picture that I took in a cellphone carrier shop, they broadcast their belief. Second, the top left picture I took in a clinic of an orphanage called Village of Hope. It was a Christian organisation that took care of 250 children in a village, which has its own school, clinic and naturally, households. Not only the passage from the Bible, the symbol painted in brown at the top right section of the picture is a symbol you can find everywhere (even on regular plastic chairs) means “the almighty God,” based on what one of the buddies (local student from LU Ghana) told us. Lastly, the bottom picture is of a play that we saw the Sunday we went to church. The play told a classic religious story of how Jesus can drive evil spirits away. The photo shows the ending where they sing a song of praise after the couple (protagonists) believe in Jesus. Most of the audience are very interactive with the play, shouts of “Amen” were heard throughout the play. It’s quite different from what I see in the UK, but it’s a part of the Ghana experience.

Unfortunately, even though the topic of religion is very common, some people don’t have much understanding about other religions, for example, Islam. Islam is actually the second most common religion in Ghana, but some people are so unfamiliar with it, they make random assumptions based on what they see on the news from outside of Ghana. However, despite of their level of understanding of the different religions, Ghana is a very peaceful country where people can worship God in their own ways side by side without any conflict whatsoever (which is something they are and should be very proud of). Another misconception that is quite common here based on the visits we have to different clinics is regarding witchcraft and “bad spirit.” Some people believe by getting rid of the bad spirit, they can be healed, so they go to traditional healers instead of medical professionals.

I’m glad that I got to experience this side of Ghana; seeing more than meets the eyes. It gives an authentic experience of a country, which is exclusive for each person.


This is what I first Googled before coming to Ghana: Accra, beaches around Accra, Ghanaian food. Ghanaian food is definitely one of the things that I look forward to the most, so I wanted a sneak peek to what it might have been like. From the pictures, the food seem very dense, plain and red. We were also warned that Ghanaian food was spicy and for some people it is. Fortunately, I’m the type of person who likes different food from different places, and most of all, I think it’s a very important part of living abroad. Therefore, get ready for this necessarily lengthy post.

*(Note: I can take spicy food better than most people I met in Lancaster Uni, but compared to most Indonesians I’m not that tolerant. I’m just sharing this so you will be aware that I might have a different level of tolerance for spicy food).

Eat, Pray, Love part 1
Now, let’s talk about these beauties.

No.1 is charcoaled Tillapia (fish) with Jollof rice (spiced tomato fried rice). Some people find it spicy and others (me) don’t. Jollof always smell a bit like lamb to me (which is great), but maybe it’s just the spices. Also, the portion of food in Ghana is usually quite huge, but only for the carbs. They will serve a bit of protein with a lot of rice or any other carbs. Vegetables and fruits are also quite rare in Ghana, which explained the cabbage and lettuce in the salad. The people here don’t really eat vegetables in general, too, meaning they don’t really know how to cook or dress it (however you have your vegetables).

No.2 is a very local dish called fufu. Fufu actually refers to the torn apart yellow “dough” on the picture, which is one of Ghana’s original staple food, along with Banku and Kenkey. Most of them are a mix of plantain, yam, corn meal and/or casava, and different combinations of these ingredients in different areas. Banku and kenkey are tougher and are not soaked in curry like fufu here. In Ghana, the traditional way of eating is by hands, even with soup like fufu. Unfortunately, I was a chicken and ate it with a spoon  Another shocking thing, Fufu is quite soft, but it still has a bit of texture, but we’re supposed to swallow. Each. Bite. Whole. I also failed at this and when I said fufu is not my favourite thing, they say that’s because I eat the Fufu wrong. Okay…

No.3 is a goat curry. One thing about Ghanaian food is they have this tomato sauce that you can get in the supermarkets. My friend, who loves this sauce, explained the flavour as spiced wholesome ketchup, which doesn’t taste artificial. Their curry usually tastes like a stronger version of this tomato sauce, but not as strong as Indian curry, but it has its own character. If you’ve never tried goat before, don’t be alarmed, the flavour is similar to lamb, but the meat is slightly more fibrous.

No.4 is probably my favourite, besides for yam fries (I don’t have a picture of this because I ate it too much). This is Red-red, which is fried plantain (top side) and stewed beans, sometimes with fish (this one has chunks of fish). It has a savoury, light tomato sauce and fish flavour, which is quite unique compared to most Ghanaian food that are very thick and quite fatty. The fried plantain is quite sweet, but I personally love sweet and savoury as someone who eats omelettes with jam and bread

No.5 This would be my favourite because PRAAAWWWNS (prawns), but it is not common. We had this in Keta Lagoon and it was great! To be very honest, the shrimp could have been fresher, especially for this very light sauce of butter, lemon and pepper (called Pilipili), but this goes well with the tomato sauce I mentioned to you. The beer is also a big part of the whole meal; it is a locally brewed beer and it’s a beautiful strong lager, which smells more like ale. I mean, look at that beautiful colour.

Life in Ghana – Part 2

Dance floor for dancing at Republic Bar and Grill

How lucky is it to have a summer programme that starts on a Wednesday, so just two days after starting, we got to enjoy the nightlife of Ghana. Republic Bar is a semi-outdoor bar in Accra, famous for its self-distilled liquor and music. Republic might have plastic chairs instead of comfy armchairs; the outdoor situation is the side of a street, facing two very simple food vendors instead of a garden; but it offers a lively, Afrobeat-sy atmosphere that gets you up on your feet. The drinks are tasty, well, some of them are, but they won’t be familiar (besides a Mojito) and mocktails are also available. They cost around four quid and they have yam chips instead of the usual fries. They have their own house liquors, which are…strong.

Elita Collage_Blurred

The dance floor is probably a 5x5metres square in front of the DJ stage, which is a few steps behind our tables; in other words, it’s out in the open, inviting passersby to join in. The people dancing on the floor are not your typical group; I would say they were in their 30s and they dance better (or at least more vigorously) than most people in Sugarhouse. They make way for the most energetic singer to dance in the middle of this automatically formed circle (the usual kind), but it was so amazing to see how welcoming they are to other people who would like to bust a move/let off some steam. I guess their small dance floor managed to select for people who actually want to dance and people who want to be creepy on the side (which was probably how my tiny dance circle on the side got approached by a guy with a questionable motive). Also, guess who got to dance in the centre? (I did and my friend, too, but we’re not very proud of it so let’s not bring this up ever again).

All in all, I hope this was a good introduction to Ghana. Some of the next posts might not be as touristy and more about the harsh reality of staying somewhere unfamiliar for six weeks, but I hope you’ll look forward to more Ghana in this blog

(This trip is sponsored by Santander)

Life in Ghana – Part 1

This year, Lancaster University is holding a public health/tropical diseases summer programme together with Boston University in Ghana, where we are taken care of by Lancaster University Ghana (surprise! We have a campus in Ghana). The programme has been running for more than four weeks now, but because this is my first post, an introductory post is surely necessary. Welcome to Ghana, where life is music, and music goes hand in hand with dance. One of our dance teachers told  me that when they taught us in the first week. We had a dance lesson on our second day, that’s how important it is. Well, it’s also because we have to perform at the end of our programme, but that’s not a concern for now. Together, music and dance fill up our day-to-day life in Ghana and here is an example:

The Wheels on the Bus Go AAAY!
We have the privilege to spend time with Lancaster Uni Ghana students and have their company for most of the trips. The length of the trips vary, but most of the time, it’s more than an hour to get to a tourist site (it lasts longer due to the traffic). However, they never allow the bus rides to exhaust us before we get to our destination, and the way they tackle that issue is by blasting a LOT of Hip Hop, Afrobeats or sometimes just general new music (they play Adele’s “Hello” every now and then). If you’re not familiar with Afrobeat, you’re definitely missing out; it is definitely one of the most danceable music genres there is. It is able to transform the busy traffic with its Tro-Tro* with the open (but tied up) back door, jaywalkers, food vendors with food on their heads, to synchronised dancers that move to the beats of Drake or the constant clap-clap-clap-clapclap of Afrobeat.
Elita Bus
Sometimes, we get to take a taxi, which is also not your regular taxi. Most of them have patchy colours and they don’t have a meter, so roll your sleeves up (‘cause it’s hot) and get your bargaining skill ready! The taxi rides are also very musical, but out of three taxis we took, all of them played reggae (out loud). It really creates a picture perfect scene: your windows rolled down, wind on your face, the car riding rather smoothly down the road and some reggae, tying the whole thing together. But then some maniac behind your car won’t stop honking.
*Tro-tro: minivan-shaped public transport