Why did you decide to study abroad?
At this time in our lives, there is a plethora of opportunities. I have no idea where I'll be in 10 years time, but I felt that the ability to travel would be in some ways more limited than it is for me currently. Therefore, I did not want to miss my opportunity. I decided that if I wanted to see the world, now was the perfect time. I was not sure when I was going to actually apply and go, but when my sister left to study in Argentina, she gave me the push to turn my own aspirations in to action.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Semester at Sea provided me with a need-based grant and a merit based grant, and then I fortunately was awarded with the Diversity Abroad scholarship. I also applied financial aid and scholarships from my home institution to my study abroad program. Whatever, was not covered by these aspects, I covered with a private loan and a bit of my own money.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Honestly, I am not sure if there is anything specifically that I wish I would have known further. And if I were to give some advice to others, I think its okay to leave some aspects of your study abroad experience up for surprise. When we over prepare or even search to much in to something, it's easy to develop an expectation or false image about the places you are going to. To experience something in your own right is sometimes much more wonderful than experiencing it through the words and images set up by the many blogs, pamphlets, and pages you visited.
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 a black, heterosexual, cisgendered female, and throughout my voyage it was being black that really had some significance in my voyage. Particularly in China where my blackness was both obvious and pointed out on a daily basis. I experienced staring, photographs, and even verbal remarks that during one experience in Suzhou, was just plain offensive. Sometimes I even just experienced honest, innocent, curiosity, such as in India where I was asked if I curled my hair. I chuckled and explained that it just grew like that from my head.
Not even just on land, but on the ship as well, there were many unintentional moments of insensitivity. However I don't think it was an individual experience that taught me something, but I think it was a culmination of my voyage that did. I learned something about being a black American versus being a part of the multiple groups that make up the African diaspora. I even became more aware of what it meant to be black and travel. Furthermore, in black student union we had many great discussions on a global level as opposed to a local one which was very insightful.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Before this voyage, to think about things in a global context was not something that was exactly automatic for me. I was accustomed to making these connections only when the class had keywords such as "world" or "multi-cultural" attached to it and the it was asked of me. I think this voyage has widened the scope of my thoughts and has expanded the files of information and images I have available. There are now things that I can say that I did not just read about in my school text book, but experienced. I have tasted, touched, seen, heard, and smelled things that will my inform my views and conversations in a significant way.
At this point, whatever I do in the future will not just be a national venture, but an international one.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
My time abroad was not all fun and life changing experiences, but I know it is a pivotal moment in my life. During my time at Semester at Sea I reflected a lot, met various people, and learned some things about myself. I feel as though the world is much more available to me than what it was four months ago, and for that I am thankful.