IES Abroad Program: Dublin - Irish Studies, Spring 2012
U.S. College / University: Howard University
Current Profession: "I am a Diversity Relations Manager at IES Abroad. I recruit and work with underrepresented students to prepare them to study or intern abroad through various initiatives and events on their home campuses, as well as through personal advising. I also give presentations at national conferences in the international education field. I was recently accepted into the Critical Ethnic Studies Masters program at DePaul University, and I plan to concentrate on African and Black Diaspora Studies, as well as Latin American and Latino/a Studies."
What words would you use to describe your identity(ies)?
I am a black, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender female who is also a twin, and one of the oldest in a family of 8 kids (my twin is supposedly older).
What motivated you to choose to study abroad?
I've wanted to study abroad ever since I was 12 years old. That's when I first realized it was an option. In middle school, my sister and I both were approached by People to People, an ambassador organization for middle-schoolers, and that's when I discovered that seeing the world was an option. My parents couldn't afford to send us abroad then, but after doing some research, I realized that going abroad would be a viable option once I was in college, so I made it happen.
When you studied abroad, did your identity(ies) influence your experience in significant and/or surprising ways? If so, how?
It did. Being the only black student on my program in Ireland was definitely an interesting experience. Every week, I would go to my creative writing class with a new story of how someone stopped me on the street because they hadn't ever met a black person before. And, while, yes, this experience was irritating at times, I not only learned to be more patient, but I also honed my small talk skills. I got really good at making conversation on the street, which helped when we were traveling as a group outside of Dublin and meeting people outside of our program, and is a constant skill I use now for my current position!
And vice versa, when you studied abroad, did your experience influence your identity(ies) in significant and/or surprising ways? If so, how?
Studying abroad was the first time in my life where I was American before I was African-American. It made me view myself as part of the cohort a bit more, rather than an outlier within the group. (Not that my fellow American Dubliners weren't amazing!)
Has studying abroad impacted your educational and/or professional aspirations or path? If so, how?
Most definitely! Before studying abroad, I had no idea that this was even a career path that existed! Now, not only do I work for IES Abroad—first as a Program Advisor, and now as a Diversity Relations Manager—but I have plans to continue within this field.
What experiences or skills gained from studying abroad continue to influence your life now?
What initially drew me to IES Abroad's Dublin program was the Celtic Myth and Legends course. However, while I was there, I also took my very first creative writing class (though I've been writing short stories since I was 10), and that class (especially Stephen!) influenced me to continue writing. I've taken a variety of different writing courses since then, and I'm currently preparing for my second attempt at Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo is an Internet-based creative writing project where participants pledge to write a 50,000-word novel throughout November. My goal is to complete my book and get it published.
Share one of your favorite memories from when you studied abroad.
It's so hard to choose just one, so I'm going to cheat a little bit and share two.
My very first day-trip was to a pretty seaside town in Ireland named Howth. A group of us planned the trip together, and on a cold and windy Saturday we took a train and explored this little city. At some point, I wandered away from my friends a little bit and saw something amongst the trees that were surrounding the castle (there are castles everywhere in Ireland). I was too afraid to walk in the woods by myself (mostly because of fairy stories—which, trust me, are nothing like Disney!), so I found my friends and convinced them to walk with me. We happened upon some hidden ruins off the beaten path, and it's one of my favorite memories now! The other memory I wanted to share also took place in Ireland. My sister and a friend of ours came to visit me from their study abroad program in Rotterdam (about an hour away from Amsterdam), and I was able to find us pretty cheap tickets to a Drake concert. Dublin was one of the first stops on his Club Paradise Tour. Not only was it cool to experience a concert in another city, but he performed "Make Me Proud" in which he called out Howard University. Since all three of us were current Howard students, we, of course, went nuts!
In one sentence, tell students who identify similarly why studying abroad is a good idea, particularly for them.
Think of the stories you'll be able to share!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
When I say think of the stories you'll be able to share, I don't just mean the stories that you'll use to impress your friends and family back home. I mean the stories you'll use that will one day help you network when you're in a room where you don't know anyone; the stories that will highlight the skills and abilities you've learned so that you'll be able to get your dream job; the stories that will allow you to reminisce with a massive smile on your face with the life-long friends you'll gain throughout this. Those are the stories you should think about.
I know that going abroad, especially as a black student is scary, and, quite honestly, difficult. You have all these barriers set against you, up to and including your skin color and how that color means you may be perceived or treated while you are abroad. I get it. I've been there. However, don't let that stop you. There are so many incredible opportunities that will come once you step outside of your comfort zone. You'll have the chance to meet so many wonderful people and open their eyes to a whole new perspective, all while they are broadening yours. Studying abroad was a fantastic experience that I got to cross off of my bucket-list and which then infected me with the travel bug. I'm so glad I dared to go!