3 Things To Know About Me

Chen Yu
January 28, 2018
  1. My passion for social justice has greatly influenced the way I live and travel.

In the 7th grade, I wrote about social inequalities in one essay contest and was thus authoritatively labeled as “being too extreme” and “not mature”. But even today, I’m still super proud of that 13-year-old me writing down in my diary under the dim lamp light that I would never stop writing about social inequalities.

Upon matriculation at my university, I realized how life-changing my experience has been as a degree-seeking student in a foreign country, and consequently planned two study abroad semesters in two different continents in my junior year. From New Orleans to Prague and Rabat, my study abroad location constantly changes, but my unchanging passion for social justice and inclusion stays the same and has greatly influenced the way I travel.

Most people would say they love to travel, but from my past experience, one can easily appreciate the stunning graffities and the amazing colors of the houses in Puerto Rico, but few have time to explore beyond the visuals and delve into the political and historical landscape of the region and uncover the poetic and creative ways of community activism; one can easily name iconic landmarks such as the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle in Prague, but few choose to go beyond the mainstream narratives and enquire the life of marginalized communities. Now that I’m in Morocco, I’m not content with seeing just Hassan Tower in Rabat or the blue hue in Chefchaouen; I’m more curious to learn more about the life of migrants from other African countries, migrant children’s access to education, how the queer community here copes with the illegality of homosexuality, among other social issues that I’ll uncover throughout my journey.

  1. For me, study abroad shouldn’t compromise healthy living.

I’m not trying to downplay the positives of study abroad experiences but studying abroad is only part of my life. My life does not start and end with the study abroad program; in fact, I’m travelling across space and time literally all the time throughout my life. Therefore, I want this life-long journey to be as sustainable and as healthy as possible.

With that said, I don’t like it when people use “study abroad” as an excuse to go beyond their physical and emotional limit. Besides meeting new people from all walks of life and having crazy adventures, I place a huge emphasis on local healthy lifestyles: learning to cook local cuisines, buying fresh fruits and vegetables, and applying different senses and different parts of my body to see, smell, hear, sense, touch, feel, the beauty of this world. Ensuring daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and loads of warm water (or Moroccan tea in this case, maybe without sugar), I also try to maintain a regular workout schedule and really take time to meditate and practice self-care.

  1. I will present the most real and uncensored side of my study abroad experience.

Study abroad blogs and social media tend to paint pretty pictures for overseas experiences, where Prague, for example, is usually portrayed with a selfie on the Vysehrad castle against the brick red background of the city on a sunny day. When international higher education becomes a lucrative industry, this is it tries to sell students. However, my identities and past experience have told me that study abroad is a lot more than that and my study abroad experience is doomed to be drastically different from the majority because of my identities.

Faced with a lot of uncertainties as to whether I would have sufficient money for two semesters abroad, I applied for all the grants and scholarships I could be eligible for and hoped for the best. Thanks to the need-based aid that I received from IES Abroad and two more scholarships that I was able to secure through other sources, I’ve been able to greatly reduce my study abroad cost. I also worked part-time over the summer and heavily depended on various grants that my home school offers.

During my last semester abroad in Prague as an East Asian student from a working-class family, I often felt out of place by the repetitive micro- and macro-aggression and the ubiquitous middle-class assumption. I was so glad when selected as an IDEA (Initiative to Diversify Education Abroad) Writing Correspondent by IES Abroad to specifically cover the ways in which my identities intersect with my study abroad experience.

From now on, I want to dedicate at least several posts writing about how I, as a student from a working-class family, have been able to make two semesters abroad possible, and how I feel in a U.S study abroad program in Morocco as a Chinese, queer, first-generation college, and non-US citizen person of color.

 

So are you ready to follow me on this journey?

Chen Yu

<p>Speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese, English, and conversational Czech, Yu Chen is currently looking to perfect his French during his upcoming semester abroad in Rabat. Passionate about revealing social and structural inequalities around the world through film and media, Yu Chen is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Gender &amp; Sexuality Studies and Digital Media Production.</p><p>Previously, Yu Chen has studied environmental issues in Okinawa, conducted research on social practice art in Puerto Rico, exchanged at the Film &amp; TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and tasted 44-year-old homemade Serbian Rakija in Belgrade.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2018 Spring
Home university:
Tulane University of Louisiana
Hometown:
Fuzhou, Fujian, China
Major:
Gender Studies
Media/Media Studies
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