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 Arlette 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 decided to go abroad because I wanted to see the world and become fluent in Spanish. I had been thinking about studying abroad since my freshman year of college, the only concern was money and location. I wanted to find a program that focused on my major, was in Spanish or in a Spanish speaking country, and was within a good budget. Most programs can be paid for through tuition and fees, but the program I found (and loved) was a bit overpriced. I was fortunately able to receive enough scholarships to go!
The biggest influence on my decision to go was recognizing that this would be a once in a lifetime experience. I am the first in my immediate family to go overseas. I am the only one in my family to know another language, fluently. I was a little nervous to be away from everything I knew and loved for such a long period of time, but I knew the reward would be greater than I could imagine - and it was.
I now have lifelong friends, and extended family in Spain, and a better understanding of Spanish. I vlogged (video blogged) while I was overseas. This experience was rewarding and allowed me to document my experiences and showcase my video recording and editing skills as a journalism student. Now as an alumni of my program, I encourage so many students to go overseas and live their best semester! Check out my work at arletting.wordpress.com/arlette-abroad
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Before going abroad I wish I had known more about Seville and the surrounding area so that I could appreciate it more head-on rather than learning as I went. I wish I packed lighter but I couldn't help but pack my favorite clothes for Instagram pictures. If you want it, buy it but remember suitcase space. See if your parents or a friend can visit you overseas; mine couldn't but its a thought for some. For students going abroad, take this experience in! You will get homesick and miss your friends and family but this experience will never come again. It is temporary, but an exciting temporary. Do not be afraid to meet new people, dance like nobody's watching, and eat like calories don't count (use that young metabolism!). Sometimes I felt like I did not want people to know I am American, and felt like a target if they did know. However, traveling smart made this easier.
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 am an African American woman. I experienced discrimination at one event, that made me feel unsafe or insecure. The event was called, Carnival in Cadiz. There were people in blackface (Blackface is a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a stereotypical caricature of a black person) and that really angered and disappointed me. It was hard to enjoy the night seeing people in blackface wearing African or island style clothing. Some had on leather jackets with guns. The following Monday I asked my teachers about the situation and they said most people know why it is considered inappropriate, but some still entertain the costume. In the moment that I saw people in blackface I wanted to lash out but I only gave them angered stares to help them understand that it was wrong. I addressed this in a blog for students who may encounter situations that are uncomfortable or strange, especially discriminatory. Check it out at arletting.wordpress.com/arlette-abroad
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My experience has benefitted me personally by helping to increase my fluency in Spanish and confidence in my abilities to travel alone. I have never been overseas prior to this experience and most of my trips have been by land rather than via air. I have learned how to pack efficiently, not panic when things hit the fan, and how to cook new meals. I have attended predominantly African American schools before this experience so at first, I was overwhelmed when I was the only student of color in my classes. I felt like I could not make a mistake and be the "dumb black girl," but after I let that concern fly away and realized that I am making this experience more diverse, I was able to learn from my classmates as much as they learned from me. On the academic side, it was fun to take classes that I won't usually take in America, overseas. I took a Flamenco, Social Justice, a Video, and Spanish class. Each class was unique in its own way and helped me develop to be a more conscious and holistically knowledgeable student and young adult. All of my classes were taught in Spanish so I really improved my speech and confidence in the language. Through my insightful and fun video class I realized I want to continue working in media. I am interested in Journalism and news, but also directing videos and documentaries.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
Seville is my favorite Spanish city - See a soccer game, participate in Feria and Semana Santa, take a lot of pictures, and keep in contact with your new friends from Spain and from America who traveled with you.
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.
Aurthored by: Arlette