Studying Abroad as a Student of Color

Thoughts from Brianna James, Peer Advisor.

Naturally, each student preparing to go abroad has their own set of concerns. As a student who’d booked their flight a day too early, had never been out of the country before, and had never even been on a plane, I think it’s safe to say I fit the bill. My biggest concern however, was the color of my skin.

With racial tensions ever present in the States, I have to admit that being a student of color is scary; especially for those of us attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs). While most students aren’t racist, we have to be aware that they could be, and be prepared to deal with these situations, God forbid they ever arise. So it only makes sense that these fears would be heightened at the the thought of studying in another country.

Your identity as a person of color is something that follows you wherever you go, so it makes sense to be concerned about how it will impact your time abroad. I looked back at my own experience and came up with some tips for other students of color studying abroad:

DO: research…but not too much. I didn’t have any friends or family that had been abroad, and at the time I felt silly admitting to others that the color of my skin was one of my concerns. So I did what any millennial with a pressing question would do…I went to google; like actually googled “racism in London.” Most of what I found were discussion forums, and while some stories were helpful, others were definitely less so. Interestingly enough, what I found most insightful was research into Britain’s history. It helped me put the country’s racial relations onto a timeline, and really changed my perspective.

DON’T: expect another person’s experience to parallel your own. Everyone’s time abroad is different. Don’t allow yourself to be immediately turned on or off by something someone else encountered abroad.

DO: brace yourself for horror stories. It happens. When I was abroad, a man came up to me in a bar and told me he hated black people. I was stunned and had no idea what to say. Fortunately the amazing friends I’d made abroad had my back, and responded to him before I even had the chance.

DON’T: let a horror story paralyze you. If for any reason you do have an uncomfortable encounter abroad, do not let it intimidate you from enjoying the duration of your program. Take time for self care and reconnect to your support system.

DO: and I absolutely mean do, be comfortable expressing these concerns prior to your study abroad experience; it’s more difficult to face them alone. When possible, reach out to other persons in your community that have already been abroad to get a feel for their experience. More times than not, it’ll ease your mind. If no one you identify with has been abroad, take your concerns to an ally; explain them in detail because talking can be quite therapeutic.

At the end of the day, studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make as a college student. Worrying about your experience as a student of color abroad is completely valid and worth preparing for, but DON’T let it keep you from participating in the experience of a lifetime!

The Towson University Study Abroad Office partners with Diversity Abroad to offer resources and scholarships for underrepresented students. Interested in Study Abroad? Come to one of our information sessions, M-F at 2pm in PY 408, or email us at studyabroad@towson.edu

 

Advice for Veterans Studying Abroad

Veterans represent a growing population on college campuses, and that means more students that should study abroad! Plus, if you receive G.I. Bill educational funding,  you could be traveling for little to nothing! Check out thoughts from Chris Powell, the Study Abroad Office Veteran Liaison, on studying abroad as a Veteran.

Thoughts from Chris Powell, Study Abroad Veteran Liaison

Sure, many veterans have been abroad, but have you been abroad without the uniform? Now is your chance. Veterans have been identified as an underrepresented community for study abroad! What does that mean for you? Well, for those of you utilizing the G.I. Bill, you can study abroad and learn valuable skills and experiences for a fraction of the normal cost by using your benefits. Veterans who study abroad are still eligible for their housing allowance. I studied abroad in India and was able to live very comfortably because of continued housing allowance while abroad. Studying Abroad is an amazing opportunity that you shouldn’t let pass you by. Doing so will allow you to expand your network and add some very valuable skills to your resume, such as language training, or even showing an employer that you have been abroad and are culturally competent and globally savvy in foreign environments. These are important skills that are sought after in the civilian sector of employment, where international work is continuously growing.

Studying abroad also grants us the opportunity to get rid of the stigma about veterans overseas. For those of us who have been abroad or lived abroad with the military, we have all heard the same old saying about the U.S. military overseas, and most of the time it involves negative opinions. Well now is our chance to get rid of the stigma and become proud ambassadors for our country and to show other countries that we are a valuable asset to work with. Not only will your study abroad experience grant you credits towards graduation but also help fulfill requirements for your major and or minor, including elective credits or Core credits, but also gives you the opportunity to build your resume, forge new friendships that will last a lifetime, and gain new and interesting experiences by learning other languages, cultures and customs that could change you in ways you never thought possible. Studying in a different country allows you to live life and learn through a new positive perspective. And as we know, what we encountered during our time in the military, most of us have lived through very rough and stressful situations. Studying abroad can be stressful going to a new country where you don’t know the language or customs, but often this may be easier for us since we’ve had to do this before, but in war zones, where stress levels can be through the roof. Being resilient and adaptable really make studying abroad perfect for veterans. Please consider studying abroad during your time at Towson University, as studying abroad forever changed my life for the better, and it can change yours too, if you take the leap.

Interested? Attend a Study Abroad Information Session (M-F at 2pm, PY 408, drop-ins welcome). Or, contact the Study Abroad Office for more information!

“I, Too, Am Study Abroad” Discussion Series

The Study Abroad Office and the Center for Student Diversity have partnered to provide programming specifically suited to students that are not traditionally represented in study abroad. Please join us at the following events so we can show you how truly accessible study abroad is for everyone!

Discussion Series Schedule of Events:

September 14th, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Representing the Underrepresented: Why Everyone Can Study Abroad
Think study abroad isn’t for you? Think again! Join your peers in a discussion about how study abroad can be a part of your TU experience! Lunch will be provided.

September 21st, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Funding Your Experience Abroad
Want to go abroad, but unsure about finances? Hear directly from a Gilman Scholarship recipient and get scholarship writing tips from the Writing Center. Using Financial Aid? A representative from the Financial Aid Office will be there too! Lunch will be provided.

October 27th, 3-4:30pm*
Study Abroad Office, PYSC 407

Critical Language Scholarship Information Session
Looking for a FULLY funded experience abroad? Interested in speaking another language? Learn more about this FREE opportunity abroad.

*Attend one of the above events, and be entered to win a raffle prize!

November 14-18th
Location and times vary

International Education Week
Do you LOVE everything international? Join us for a week-long celebration of all things international! Schedule to be announced soon.

Questions? Email studyabroad@towson.edu