An Evolving Purpose

Chandra Dickey
March 20, 2015
I tend to problematize everything. In non-academic terms this means I tend to critique ideas or concepts and look for new ways of understanding them. Or going even further and figuring out what overarching systems or methods have pushed us to believe them in the first place. Thus, as you would expect, I have problematized my decision to come to Nantes a multitude of times these past three months. This is because Nantes was not the type of place I had imagined myself studying abroad in. Originally, I wanted to study abroad in Salvador, Brazil and do Afro-diasporic things and learn about colonization and its effects on the Americas. Unfortunately, this program was canceled and I had to make a snap decision and go somewhere else. But Chandra, weren't there other study abroad programs in Brazil you could have attended? You may ask. Yes there were but I wasn't drawn to the others as I was with my first choice. After doing a lot of thinking and having a mini-existential crisis in the process I decided on Nantes because I knew I needed down time. This is not saying that Nantes hasn't challenged me (because it has). But I realized I needed to go to a place where I knew I wouldn't have the whole 'what has my life been up until this point' experience. Because going to a liberal arts college across the country has already given me plenty of those. 
Yet, Nantes has surprised me quite a few times. Recently I started tutoring at an association that focuses on students whose parents may not speak French as their first language or who may be from low income backgrounds. Right when I walked in I knew volunteering was a perfect choice for me because 95% of the students were of color! Last week I helped a student prepare her oral presentation for the rigorous baccalaureate exam. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she chose to research and present the struggle of Black Americans in order to portray the overarching theme of 'Ideas of Progress.' In her five minute presentation she focused on the meanings of the song 'Strange Fruit' and then contrasted that with the fact that the United States now has a Black president. I was even more overjoyed that she mentioned Black people's struggle is not over by citing the current protests happening in Ferguson, Missouri.  
She and I ended up talking about the United States, the differences between there and France, and how American culture has a nasty habit of infiltrating every movie theater and radio across the globe. She was in love with the idea of attending a university in California and being able to do the occasional tour of Hollywood Boulevard but was quickly put off by the fact that my school costs over $60,000 to attend. During our conversation, I was also hit with the 'where are you really from?' question for the first time in my life. It totally caught me off guard, but I knew it was out of a place of genuine curiosity. Our conversation then turned to all of the things that have been happening politically in France and France's well known colorblind stance on race. Needless to say, we covered a lot! 
These meaningful conversations remind me why I chose to study abroad in Nantes. Not only can I share another side of the United States most French students may not hear about, but I can hear new perspectives on French life and culture from those who know it best: students. Thus, I'm proud to say I'm extremely happy to be here. 

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Chandra Dickey

<p>Chandra Dickey is a junior at Scripps College in Claremont, California studying Politics, International Relations, and History. She is really excited to journey to Nantes, as it is her first time out of the United States. While abroad she hopes to learn more about Nantes&rsquo; rich history, try a bunch of new foods and learn the many quirks of the French way of life. &nbsp;</p>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Scripps College
International Relations
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