Photo for From Kwame Nkrumah
Hayley Farrell (UCLA 2022) at.the edge of the Volta River in Akosombo, Ghana. (Photo provided by Ms. Farrell.)

From Kwame Nkrumah's “Neocolonialism” to study abroad in Ghana

Hayley Farrell, an international development studies major, has spent her senior year studying at the University of Ghana while interning at a non-profit in Accra.

“Living in a cultural setting that is different from the U.S, and experiencing perspectives and ways of being that differ from my own socialization, has helped me to be more aware, open-minded and to challenge the things I have always considered to be ‘just the way it is.'”

By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications

UCLA International Institute, May 25, 2022 — Graduating senior Hayley Farrell has had an unusual UCLA experience. The Missouri native transferred to UCLA from Santa Monica College in fall 2020, when pandemic precautions required Bruins to attend classes remotely throughout the academic year.

“As a transfer student, it [has felt] particularly bizarre, because I have never had a class on the UCLA campus. Sometimes it felt like I hadn’t really transferred,” relates Farrell.

“I became a bit obsessive about my schoolwork because I didn’t have the usual outlets available to me. However, I was still able to learn a lot and our professors and advisors did everything possible to make it more tenable for us.”

When the availability of vaccines and lower Covid-19 case rates made it possible for Bruins to return to campus in fall 2021, Farrell was already taking in-person classes as part of a UC study abroad program at the University of Ghana.

A major in line with her values and interests

“In terms of my personal values, the international development studies (IDS) major emphasizes the aspiration for a more equitable, just and humane world system,” says Farrell about her choice of major.

“I have always been interested in politics, international relations, history and social/cultural systems. As an interdisciplinary major, IDS covered many different areas of interest.”

Among her favorite IDS courses have been “Theory and History in International Development” (INTL DV 130) and “Research Methods for the Study of Ethnicity and Development” (INTL DV 188), taught by Institute faculty members Kevan Harris (sociology) and Daniel Posner (political science), respectively.

In Professor Harris’s course, she said, “I felt that I was able to discover different perspectives on IDS topics and really dig a bit deeper into some really complex issues. Professor Posner’s IDS 188 was also a really important class for me because it made me feel more comfortable with reading research papers and methodology, which ultimately motivated me to attempt my own research project.”

What is the most important thing she learned? “Development is complicated. Every solution comes with unintended consequences. Good intentions do not inevitably manifest positive outcomes.”

Having already developed an interest in the Middle East and North Africa as a student at Santa Monica College, Farrell settled on the African & Middle Eastern studies (AMES) minor. The minor, she says, allowed her “to dive a bit deeper into some of the issues discussed at the global level in IDS.

“I knew I wanted to study abroad in a country within the AMES region. In one of my courses we read some of Kwame Nkrumah’s book, ‘Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism’ (1958), so I became interested in his story and Ghana’s independence story more generally.

“From there I kept reading anything that came my way pertaining to Ghana, so when I decided to choose, that is where I wanted to be.”

The view from Africa

A year of study and interning in Africa has given Farrell a new vantage point. “Living in a cultural setting that is different from the U.S, and experiencing perspectives and ways of being that differ from my own socialization, has helped me to be more aware, open-minded and to challenge the things I have always considered to be ‘just the way it is,’” says the Bruin senior.

“It’s impossible to concisely describe my experience here, but it has been really positive and I would recommend studying in or traveling to Ghana to other students.

“The culture here is more communal; even in the big cities, people look out for each other and are more involved in one another’s lives. In the U.S., especially in big cities, people have more impersonal interactions, particularly with strangers.”

Learning about the chieftaincy system in the country, and the significant role that traditional authorities play in their communities, has been especially interesting.

“I’ve also really enjoyed music and dancing here, there is music playing most places you might go,” she relates.

“I’ve traveled quite a bit within the country, and I hope once I am finished with my thesis and internship, I will be able to explore some other countries in Africa before I return to the U.S.”

In addition to take taking classes at the University of Ghana, Farrell has interned throughout her senior year at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD).

“The center conducts a lot of research and is involved with civic education, policy advocacy and government accountability,” says Farrell. She has been working on a variety of projects, from campaign finance reform to devolution of political power via local-level elections to media oversight and combatting violent extremism.

“I am typically doing research, writing reports, data consolidation and summarizing issues discussed in meetings and consultations,” she relates.

“It has been very rewarding working with CDD, although it’s been challenging to balance the workload with school and research,” says the senior. “Ultimately, though, the challenges are far outweighed by how much I have learned and experienced with this internship opportunity.”

Before departing for Ghana, Farrell won a UCLA Undergraduate Research Fellowship to do an independent research project. She has accordingly been doing research for and writing an IDS Departmental Honors Thesis on the impacts of globalization on local production in the Global South.

“Specifically, I am examining how the poultry industry in Ghana has been impacted by imported chicken and other global factors,” she explains. “I’ve conducted interviews with farmers, industry associations and other key stakeholders in Ghana to collect some qualitative data.”

In fact, Farrell will be (virtually) presenting her research project at UCLA Undergraduate Research Week (May 23–27, 2022). Her exemplary grades also recently earned her a nomination for the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society.

Next steps

“I like that the IDS program really changed my perspective on development work, and that I was able to evaluate a future in that field from an evidence-based viewpoint,” says Farrell. “I have some doubts about the efficacy and ethics of development work, but I haven’t written it off entirely.

“Right now, I feel that instead of participating in interventions abroad, it may be better to get involved in initiating change in American foreign and economic policy because these factors oftentimes really impact development in other parts of the world (for better or for worse).”

Her next step toward that goal will be to go to law school.  

Looking back at her time at UCLA, Farrell offers aspiring IDS students some advice: “Don’t just go to class! Go to office hours, get into research, study abroad, join a club, apply for scholarships and internships. Take advantage of the many opportunities available at UCLA beyond just completing coursework.”

We’re hoping that this soon-to-be IDS graduate will soon have many opportunities to enjoy campus as an alumna.