I spent the last couple of days on my adventure in Geneva. A very expensive Swiss city that oh so conveniently has an overnight train to Barcelona. In an effort to hold on to the little money left in my “European Adventure” fund, cafés became my best friend. Along with international train rides, the coffee culture of many European cities lends itself perfectly to deep thinking (they are also good for people watching, but we’ll discuss that another time). Although I have an entire semester left, living abroad the last couple of months has served as my time for self-reflection.
When I first began the study abroad process, one thing became very clear: not many minority students study abroad (Black Enterprise confirms that this isn’t just a figment of my imagination: http://www.blackenterprise.com/2011/08/10/studying-abroad/). I attended many study abroad information sessions and social events sponsored by the Office of International Programs, yet at each one I could easily count the number of blacks on one hand. I have never considered being the “token” a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just what is. However, in this situation I feel that I am left at a disadvantage. Despite the plethora of resources OIP provides students to prepare for their study abroad experience, my experience is and has differed very much from that of my Caucasian counterparts. I would have appreciated being able to have the perspective of another black student.
Little did I know I would find the guidance I was looking for during the course of my adventure. While dining on what I am pretty sure are the best waffles I have ever tasted and taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi in a small Viennese café, I came across urbangirltravel.com, a blog devoted to “black women living globally through international travel.” This eventually led me to countless blogs written by blacks discussing living abroad, many of whom are women (if only I had found this before I had arrived). A common thread among many of the blogs is the lack of a black presence in regards to international travel. Each blogger discusses how her experiences abroad have redefined what it means to be a black woman in the world and how as a result she gained a stronger sense of self. Even though I am only in the midst of my journey, one thing has become very clear: studying abroad is a life changing experience.
Since birth, my number one goal has been to get out of Colorado (okay maybe it wasn’t number one, but it was pretty high on the list). Georgetown gave me that opportunity, but it has also given me the opportunity to do so much more in the form of two study abroad programs. My time at Oxford left me feeling focused and centered, something I very much needed after the chaos known as sophomore year. Now I have to take the time to consider what it is I want to gain from my time abroad and direct this new found energy into making the most out of my time here in Europe. I refuse to return home with any regrets.
Moral of the Story: When I left the US I knew I had a new journey ahead of me, but what I didn’t know is that it would be one of self-discovery.