STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Our Diversity Abroad alumni have been able to prepare, engage, and reflect on their international experiences. Upon their return we asked them questions for them to share how they did all of the above. Through these five questions we explore why K’Yanna chose to study abroad, how they got there, what it was like, and the impact of their global experience.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I must admit that at first I was apprehensive about going abroad. Working in the study abroad office on Campus really gave me the push to go abroad. I was at first afraid, but after reassurance from the staff at my school, I decided to take the leap. Now, don't get me wrong, I have always wanted to go abroad to study and travel the world, yet was still afraid to do so. I finally decided to go abroad to immerse myself in many different cultures, languages and meet a wealth of people from various backgrounds. Studying religion and criminology on campus, inspired me to study abroad, because I knew the experience would not only make me more well-rounded, but also give me hands on experience of interacting with a variety of people.
I also wanted to study abroad to enhance my knowledge of different cultures beyond the textbook. I knew that studying abroad would not only mature me, but also force me to get out of my comfort zone. At first I did not think it was possible, and most certainly did not think I could afford it, but with the help of California Lutheran University staff and my family, I was able to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity!
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Being able to go abroad, financially was no easy task! Being blessed with the Diversity Abroad scholarship, as well as receiving money from my college, made this opportunity possible. In addition, I also set up a go-fund me page, my mom did a lot of fundraising and student loans assisted me to attend the Semester at Sea program.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
I wish I had known how expensive the field programs on Semester at Sea were going to be. It would have allowed me to raise more money to participate in these programs. My advice for students thinking about going abroad, is to just go for it! It is a once in a lifetime experience, and regardless of your monetary situation, everything will work out. Moreover, be open minded and willing to not only learn about others, but yourself, as well.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I identify myself as an African- American young woman. I think the biggest challenge more so, were social and economic barriers. Many people participating in Semester at Sea came from higher socioeconomic classes which presented some barriers for me when navigating finances. In choosing which activities to participate in I was challenged to budget more, and be grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I did encounter. I think one issue that came up was about African-American hairstyles, such as braiding. It allowed many of us to have healthy dialogue on respecting, appreciating and validating other's cultures. At times, I did feel like an outcast, being an African American female, but this experience allowed me to develop tough skin and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
This international experience positively benefited me not only personally, but academically. I was able to grow as an individual, learning more about myself during this experience. In addition, I was able to grow academically by being able to truly experience the culture and religious views and principles of the people and regions I was studying. This experience has pushed me to want to study international law, and work overseas, upon graduation. In addition, this experience allowed me to become more creative and comfortable in communicating with others who do not speak my language. Most importantly, I was pushed to be more culturally sensitive and aware of diverse people. I was encouraged to not only learn about the countries I visited, but also to participate in the traditions, religion and practices of the people there.
Want to continue to engage after you’ve returned from your study abroad experience? Attend the Global Student Leadership Conference, Volunteer at the Diversity Abroad Conference, or share your story with us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Author: K’Yanna Wesley