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My First Week in London
In the summer of 2017, I started my academic journey at the University of Michigan. I had no idea then that I would ever be halfway across the world studying in London. I chose this program because one of my closest friends that I met at a high school summer camp was actually raised here. When we first met, I told her everything about the States and in exchange she told me everything about London. So when I learned there was a program that incorporated my love for literature and my desires to visit the city, I applied.
Thus far, the program has been everything I hoped for and more. I've bonded with this year's cohort, taken the infamous red telephone booth photo, and seen a lot of historical places that I never imagined I'd see. Before coming on this trip I made a decision to come with no expectations, but to let the City speak for itself. Through the classes, excursions, and traveling with my classmates I feel that I will continue to enjoy everything London has to offer. In fact, I haven't even found myself concerned about the classes at all simply because I'm open to learn as much as I can in these short weeks.
My ultimate goal from this trip is to learn more about myself from the experiences I have while abroad. I realized in the first few classes that a lot of the conversation would be about our identities (and also our ontology). I've taken a lot of Sociology courses and one Law and Culture course through the law school that I believe will help me to contribute to our class conversations on these subjects. In conclusion, I am just ecstatic to be in the city of London. I can't wait to continue exploring, diving into our courses, and taking even more cheesy tourist photos!
Farewell Note to London (A taste of the Contemporary London program)
It is unbelievable that I'll be heading home in a little more than 24 hours. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to spend so much time abroad and I am very thankful that it was spent with such a great group of students. London came with experiences I didn't expect, but also fulfilled every hope I had when I got off the plane. From the first days of touring around the city to the last days of uncovering more enclaves that I didn't even know existed; London continued to offer new things around every corner. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to be in a city that taught me more about myself through every single adventure I had here. Moreover, I'm excited to share what I've learned from both the city and our courses with my friends and family back home that have been supporting me since I was accepted to this program.
Through the course Social Action In Contemporary London I learned more about community action through our focus on the theories that make it up (empowerment, participation, ethnographical work, and specific questions on race relations here in the UK). In the Studying Contemporary London course I learned how our identities are shaped by our past, sometimes by the perceptions of others, and through our interactions with the World. Before these courses I simply saw London as another city and as a get-away, but after I understood that it's history was inviting us to understand more about the people that live here and how they live their daily lives.
Finally, my advice to students considering this course is to not only read what our classes are giving us, but to live it out as well. Ask yourself how what you're learning points back to your own life. Step into the shoes of those whose history you're learning about. Challenge yourself to try new things (even if you never thought in a million years that you'd like Chicken Curry). Make the most of this opportunity because it goes by fast, but the memories last a lifetime.
London, you've been great!
Being Black Abroad: Europe Edition
This summer I had the thrilling experience of studying abroad on the Contemporary London Program through CGIS. I absolutely loved being in Europe. There was always something new to experience and it was fun to share my culture with those around me. However, we always hear the stories about how fun study abroad is and how much it changes your life, but we never hear about the reality for some of us that are minorities and how that affects that experience. In this blog, I just want to list a few things that African American and other ethnic minority college students may face when they study abroad.
Number One: Being one of few or the only minority on your program
On my program I was one of five minorities out of a group of 20 students. I’ll be honest that this made me feel slightly intimidated. Arriving at the airport, I instantly felt alienated by the White students that were able to quickly become friends based on similar sororities, organizations, or mutual friends. Whereas, I and the other minority students shared nothing in common with them other than the fact that we attended the same college. Within the first few weeks, it became clear that many of us weren’t easily welcomed into the main circle. We were excluded from planning weekend trips, left out of group chats, and only provided when they had questions about black culture in relation to what we were studying. I was the only black woman that spent any time on the trip with the other white students, but when I did I felt like I was the token black because the others weren’t welcomed to hang out with us. So as a minority student be prepared to be one of the only minorities, but don’t let this affect your experience. Continue to be yourself, ask to be added to chats and make an honest effort to find some common ground somewhere. Find a group that makes you comfortable like I eventually did and realize that the connections with those on your trip may come in handy someday.
Number Two: Experiencing racism (Way different than in the States)
Racism in Europe is something most people leave out when they talk about their time there because “racism is everywhere.” Which is true, but in Europe it can be a lot more in your face than in the States. In the States, we’re more so used to microaggressions and discrimination that turns violent sometimes. In Europe, sometimes it can feel as if segregation hasn’t ended. For example, during my first week I was denied service at a restaurant because I’m black. One of my friends on the trip was denied entry into a club for the same reason. In the States, I’ve never been denied service or told that I can’t participate in something. This wasn’t my experience everywhere and it didn’t happen often. However, if you find yourself in this situation be sure to do the following: leave that location, make a complaint/review, talk to someone in the group you trust to acknowledge how you feel, and don’t let this affect your perception of everyplace you go. Because some places are actually friendly and love it when they see new faces.
In Conclusion, don’t let these things I wrote scare you or push you away from an awesome experience outside of the country. I don’t regret my study abroad experience at all and I’m actually excited to do it again next summer, if possible. However, I want people to be prepared for the possibility of things myself and other peers experienced. Moreover, this is not a universal experience for all minorities. Those reading may not experience any of these things. Don’t enter your trip expecting what I’ve listed, but have an open mind and an excitement for this great opportunity you’ve been given. Happy Travels!