Mona-Mae's Study Abroad Story

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Mona-Mae's Story

Mona-Mae Juwille was going door to door in Ghana, letting people know about the fresh water service her team was implementing in their village and using a translator to communicate with the people in their native language. But at one house, they opened the door, and the residents started speaking in French, a language Mona-Mae is fluent in. Every time she approached these people for the rest of the time she was there, they started speaking French and were able to communicate.

“It was really cool to be in a space where they were like ‘oh my gosh you know you're kind of one of us. You're here helping us. Look at us speaking the same language,’” Mona-Mae said. “That was really powerful for me.”

Mona-Mae spent three weeks in Ghana over winter term, working with a nonprofit to provide clean water. They cleaned the local water source and turn it into purified water that could be purchased for around 10 cents. On the first day the water was available, the entire village, all 23 households, came to purchase it.  

Mona-Mae was able to fit in with the community not only because of the language but also because she has Western-African roots. Both of her parents are immigrants from Africa, her mom from the Ivory Coast and her dad from Liberia. Her native tribe also lives partially in Ghana, so she has Ghanaian heritage as well.

“Being back there a place that I'm not really familiar with, but it's similar in the fact that it’s in Western Africa, was really cool for me because I look like the people there but I'm not necessarily from there,” Mona-Mae said. “Even though we had this language barrier, they still saw me as a kind of a familiar face and a comfortable face not invading their spaces.” 

Despite Mona-Mae’s American accent and inability to speak the tribal language, the people welcomed her into their homes for dinner and trusted her to watch their children.

As an international studies major with a concentration in international development, Mona-Mae was able to relate her experiences abroad to her studies and get a better idea of what she wants to do once she graduates.

“I feel like I am most impactful when I am on the ground doing grassroots things and interacting with communities,” Mona-Mae said. “I think in the communities doing work with people and understanding their stories and the impact that these initiatives have is more groundbreaking [than working in policy].”

Her experiences in Ghana helped her to get her internship last summer and have aided her in her current application process for jobs next year after she graduates.

About Mona-Mae

Mona-Mae Juwillie headshot


Germantown, MD

Graduation Year



International Studies


Global Health Studies, Sustainability


Kent State in Geneva & Saha Global in Ghana

Favorite Class or Professor Abroad

INTL 2500 with Dr. Suzanne Peters

Favorite Destination Outside of the Classroom

Paris, France, & Tamale, Ghana

Campus Involvement

African Students' Union, Global Health Alliance, Sigma Iota Rho, and Third Year Resident Assistant