Nsawam Road is a major traffic vein in Accra, Ghana. The burning winter sun made the waiting period onboard the rusty but trusty Tro-Tro difficult. With temperatures around 90 degrees and a humidity level of 80 percent, the traffic jam just a mile from Kwame Nkrumah Circle, a major traffic hub for the downtown area, was a frustrating experience. Exhaust smoke sneaked through the wide holes where one would usually find windows. The air inside the van was increasingly difficult to breath, but for Dennis Ampadu, this is home.
The Quinnipiac senior sat comfortably at a small table in the Mount Carmel cafeteria. His hair was short and pitch-black. The stark-blue Chelsea soccer jersey made him stand out.
“Just being able to walk dusty roads,” he said while putting his cup of iced coffee down, “have exhaust smoke in the air, that kinda exposure gives you a certain type of feeling that brings you home.”
Studying in the U.S. has been the goal for Dennis Ampadu ever since high school.
“I wanted the exposure,” he explained. “I wanted to get out and go somewhere different. All over the world, we know that America is a great country. America is known for a lot of advanced technology and producing a lot of well-educated people. So it wasn’t out of the norm to say you wanted to study in America. I knew I would be getting a good education.”
Applying to universities abroad was a stressful experience. Besides taking the SAT and picking the right schools to apply to, the search for good scholarships defined his search for the right university.
While advisors during that time usually recommended to find locations where the climate wasn’t too drastically different from what Ghanaians are used to, Dennis had set himself deviating priorities. He wanted to see a realistic chance of being accepted by the school. The support through a good scholarship was a decisive element as well.
He chose Quinnipiac without having set foot on the campus, a risk he was willing to take.
“One of the reasons why I came here – to Quinnipiac in particular – was because of the scholarship,” he said.
“It was nonchalant,” he said about his reasons for giving Quinnipiac the advantage. “I didn’t care too much. I was more interested in the exposure of getting outside of Ghana than anything.”
Nearly five years later, Dennis is closing in on the completion of his Bachelor’s degree. Majoring in biochemistry, the young Ghanaian embraced the additional year to minor in mathematics and take some extra biology classes.
He decided to go this extra mile to get the most out of the experience, and receive the best possible preparation for his future.
Quinnipiac is “a great school,” he said. “Teachers devote time to you. And so you are able to get the best out of them. The educational system here is rigorous. It saps everything out of you. It’s very intense. It’s instilling a habit of work ethic. You have to constantly be working at what you wanna be good at.”
“That’s one thing that I’ve learned being here in the U.S.,” he continued, “that you can achieve anything as long as you keep working.”
Studying at Quinnipiac has elicited a development. “You have to study. I’ve realized that you have to study. I’ve had to consistently put in effort to achieve good grades, which I wasn’t used to doing. But I’ve learned that, I’ve developed a sense of work ethic. Quinnipiac has helped me to develop my confidence as a person.”
When talking about his future, Dennis straightened up as if searching for a thought to begin with. He hesitated and said that it was a “huge question.”
“My plan is to go home and do med school,” he added. “Depending on how well I excel, I’m going to apply for a residency outside. I wanna switch up and go to Europe.”
The exact destination for his residency is still in the works, but if he finds the time to improve his French skills, he would prefer to work there because his family background is partially French.
Afterward, the immediate goal is to help the family.
“I wanna be a doctor,” he explained. “My dad is setting up a clinic and I wanna be able to – at some point – support him.”
Family is important for him. “Home is home,” he said. “I miss a lot of things about home.”
His pitch-black eyes lit up while he continued to talk about his family and spending time with his high school friends. After taking a sip from his iced coffee, he continued.
“I miss speaking my mother tongue. While I was in high school, we just came up with words that are not even like the local language. It’s not even recognized by our parents, you come up with a dialect amongst your friends, you all understand it. It’s just weird things like this that I miss.”
It took three and a half years before Dennis was able to head back home for Christmas 2012. But the benefits from studying at Quinnipiac make it worth the effort.
“When you really get to know someone here,” he explained, “it’s a genuine relationship. I feel that the friends I have made here,” he paused for a few second and knocked on the table before continuing, “will be lifelong friends because it is a very important time of your life, you’re realizing a lot of things about yourself, what you’re capable of (and) what you’re not capable of.”
The confidence he developed through Quinnipiac lets him think about long-term goals as well.
“I have bigger goals in terms of what I wanna do for the medical establishment,” Dennis said with a smile.
While the details are still in the works, the dream he has is already clear.
“I want to see that somehow our medical system worldwide has been impacted in terms of there is healthcare available everywhere in the world, and available at an affordable price.”
Quinnipiac was the right choice for him. They are “producing a lot of good students,” he said. “Most of my colleagues got into very good PhD. schools. They are doing very well right now.”
“I didn’t regret it, you know,” he said about his decision to choose Quinnipiac. “It worked out really well for me.”