STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY

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Why did you decide to study abroad?

I had never traveled before, let alone traveling out of the country. It was the first time anyone in my immediate family went overseas. Since I also study Spanish as a secondary study, I felt it was necessary to visit a Spanish speaking country, especially one such as Colombia, where a lot of people consider they speak the best Spanish, and it is one the most diverse Spanish speaking countries. I also have Colombian friends who really encouraged me to go and see what the country has to offer.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

I received financial aid through the Pell Grant, a social media scholarship from the study abroad office at UMBC, as well as the Summer Scholarship from Diversity Abroad. I worked the 3 months prior to, and even raised a few hundred dollars from family and friends using GoFundMe.

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

Before going abroad, I wish that I would've known about what to do to push myself to be more social. I struggled at first with talking with locals, having the confidence to speak Spanish, and just being open to the new environment. It definitely grounded me at first, but I'm glad I was able to get over that struggle overtime. I would advise other students to remember that failure is how you learn, and people are more friendly than you think. Studying abroad isn't forever, so from the first moment landing, don't waste time worrying and just do what you know is right.

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 self identify as a black, heterosexual male. While in Colombia I did not experience any insensitivity or discrimination. Colombia is a diverse country that instead of mockery of culture or racial violence, it embraces all existing cultures. It was a little odd at times when I was addressed as "negro" (in Spanish, of course), saw art of deep black characters, and noticed that there is some colorism, but I understood that none of it was offensive, at least not like it is historically in the U.S. I still felt comfortable nonetheless, but I appreciated how culture is practiced and how it exists in Colombia.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

Simply, I improved my Spanish, with speaking, developing an accent from the coast, pronunciation, vocabulary, and the ability to comprehend other Spanish speakers. I'm a lot closer to being a fluent speaker in my opinion. Personally, I gained more confidence in myself, and became more social than usual, and I'm glad for it. If not for the immersion, I wouldn't have met people who became friends while in Barranquilla, and I wouldn't have met people on the streets of Cartagena and Santa Marta who educated me on some things in the country. I also gained an interest in finding an occupation where I can travel to different places, where I can study different cultures and societies, because it was a shock to finally experience something other than what I've always been accustomed to here. I need to see more of what the world has to offer, and this need was sparked by what Colombia gave to me.

Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience

I definitely see myself returning to Barranquilla in the near future, the culture of the coast is rich and I appreciate the music and the African culture. I made friends that I am still in contact with, and I would love to spend more time and see more of the city. This trip showed me that is much more in this world, and Baltimore City can't be the only thing that I know, and I can't let it hold me back.

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