BHC Spotlight: Asha Richards '21

Major/Minor: International Studies & Political Science
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

Asha Richards

Why did you choose the Batten Honors College:
I chose the Batten Honors College because of its sense of community. I was not just another applicant. Through the honors competition I was able to see that the BHC valued me as a student and had a very conducive atmosphere. Additionally, there were a host of opportunities that the BHC provided, such as a study abroad course.

What benefits have you gained from the BHC:
One of the many benefits I have gained from the BHC is establishing relationships with VWU faculty. Through the Honors competition, orientation and first-year experience class, I was able to mingle and interact with many of the professors on campus. Not only was this advantageous for me in my classes, but it was helpful in selecting advisors for my majors and undergraduate research, seeking recommendations, and being selected for huge opportunities such as the  NATO Chiefs of Transformation Conference.

Highlight a specific research, internship, or study abroad experience(s):
Last semester I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana for a semester (unfortunately cut short due to COVID-19). While there I was able to meet meet quite a few influential people in Ghana including, but not limited to, Honorable Pius Enam Hadzide (the current [2020] Deputy Minister of Information in Ghana), Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang (Current [2020] Vice Presidential candidate for Ghana and first female vice presidential candidate backed by a major political party), and Gifty Anti, the Oheneyere of Akwamu Adumasa and renowned journalist/broadcaster and Feminist in Ghana. I also traveled to many different regions within Ghana, including doing a week-long homestay in a rural village in the Ashanti region. Lastly, and most importantly, I got to experience and learn about different Ghanaian cultures, make connections between Ghanaian culture and my Jamaican culture, and visit historical sites for the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This study abroad experience was very insightful to me as I, like many Jamaicans, have ancestry in Ghana and my career goal is to advocate for and assist in the development of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. For more details about my experience, you can visit my blog.

How did the BHC curriculum or program prepare you for this experience:
In the BHC curriculum, I was required to take 2 300/400 level honors classes. Last year I took the Politics & Security in African Conflict course to fulfill this requirement. Some of the topics discussed in this class provided me with background knowledge and talking points during my classes in Ghana. Additionally, the BHC curriculum requires and financially covers a two week study abroad course. I completed mine in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2018. Although I had always wanted to study abroad, I was very nervous about going to a country far away that I was unfamiliar with for an extended period of time. Going to Barcelona for just two weeks allowed me to discover that I could adapt quite well. In fact, it made me realize that I would prefer to do a full semester abroad because I would not feel as rushed to do everything, workload-wise and experience-wise. In addition, I’ve always been concerned that studying abroad would detract from me actually experiencing the country’s diverse culture. However, my study abroad to Barcelona proved the exact opposite. Not only did I have time to explore and engage with locals, but as a student, my trip was enhanced. Ultimately, my study abroad in Barcelona encouraged me to seek a semester long study abroad in Ghana and help me discover exactly what I wanted from the experience.

What do you hope to achieve/gain from this experience:
Although I was unable to complete my planned internship in Ghana due to COVID-19, which would have been great for my resume and career goals in International relations, gained many things from my study abroad experience. Firstly, I have been able to experience and observe urban and rural Ghanaian life firsthand through my homestays in Accra and Patakro. Such experience has helped prepare me for my career goal as an advocate for developing nations in Africa and the Caribbean through the World Bank, UN, or CARICOM because I have a better understanding of the issues the everyday person is facing. Additionally, I have gained the skill of adaptability in terms of culture and learning, due to the COVID-19 epidemic causing us to complete classes and undergraduate research outside of the country and under austere circumstances.  Lastly, as the Ashanti have had a major impact on Jamaican culture and language, I have been able to better understand my own culture and feel a sense of “returning home” through learning Ashanti Twi (the language of the Ashanti people),  experiencing the culture firsthand and visit different points along the African side of the Transatlantic Slave trade. The most powerful for me, was my visit to Assin Manso, where enslaved people had their last bath and were branded for the first time before getting to the slave castles.

List of things involved with on campus (sports teams, clubs, academic competitions/teams, positions held and description of duties)

  • Caribbean Student Association (President & Co-Founder)
  • The Dynamix Dance Team (Co-Captain)
  • African Student Association
  • Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Omicron Kappa Delta National Leadership Society
  • Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society

List any awards, recognitions, and/or conference presentations

  • Miss Phi Alpha 2019-2020
  • Gilman Scholar
  • Dan Dickerson Annual Scholarship
  • NATO Chiefs of Transformation Young Disruptor 2019
  • Dean’s List

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