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 Xochitl 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?
My Spanish lineage has been the source that drove me to choose Barcelona as my study abroad destination. Growing up in an indigenous town in Puebla, Mexico speaking the Nahualt dialect, I was constantly reminded by my father, a man who inherited the resentment and anger felt by his previous generation, of the injustices committed against the indigenous population by the hands of Spaniards. Inevitably, I also inherited my father’s anger towards the “white man”, which caused me to neglect and feel ashamed of having Spanish blood. My perspective changed with time and through education. I was able to unleash an infinite desire of self-development and awareness. I saw going to Spain as an opportunity to get to know myself and further my self awareness.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Studying abroad was a big decision as the cost was something I mainly worried about. Thankfully my study abroad adviser suggested I apply for scholarships. This was something I was hesitant about as I was taking five classes and I knew some scholarship applications required a lot of time. Nonetheless, at the end of that semester not only did I end up with a 4.0, but I was awarded the Gilman, AIFS, and the Diversity Abroad scholarships. All of these organizations plus financial Aid covered 90% of my cost. This allowed me to have financial freedom which allowed me to afford traveling around Europe in the three months I was studying abroad.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
The advice I have for students thinking about going abroad is... DO IT! Make it happen for yourself. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, today, and every single day there. Push yourself to go to a new Museum, or visit a nearby country or city. I know financially it is not possible for everyone but if you do research you will find many organizations willing to support your education abroad.
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 as a Mexican woman, and I am so happy to say that I was not discriminated against because of it. It was actually the opposite, people where so welcoming. This is something that caught me by surprise as I have experienced discrimination in the United States. I assumed people in Europe were the same, but I am so happy I was wrong. While studying in Spain, I had the chance to visit Morocco. There I felt the way women were treated differently than men. Morocco was such a culture shock. What I have learned from these experiences is that assuming things based on fear is not good, especially when they could potentially stop you from participating in a global opportunity.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My international experience has benefited me greatly, especially, personally. I learned that I am interested in working internationally. After living life being surrounded by many different cultures and languages I have come to appreciate the possibility of working with people around the world. Now that I have embraced my Spanish lineage I would like to one day live there, at least for a few years.
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.