On Studying Abroad as a Person of Color: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

“On Studying Abroad as a Person of Color: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear”

by Thomas Noah via “Huffington Post

ITALY

As I prepared to study abroad in Florence, Italy, in 2014, I planned for the semester-long trip by reading relevant travel literature and speaking with other students who had traveled overseas. I did all the research I could get my hands on, poured over student presentations, and I liked most of what I read and heard. But, as an African-American, I was taken aback when a few sources mentioned to me that Italy had a reputation for open racism being exhibited by some of its citizens. Florence, being in the north of the country, was not a good place to be black, several folks had noted.

The pre-travel reading I did was very helpful. However, one of the most valuable lessons I learned from actually making the trip is that much of what you hear before going abroad might not be accurate, and that you can gain the best insights about a country, by far, from actually being there. During my semester in Italy, I had no problems — and encountered what may have been the least amount of discrimination I’d ever experienced anywhere in my life.

After arriving there, I soon realized that Florence was one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. In addition to the local Fiorentini and residents from other parts of Italy and Europe, there were Black-Italians, Afro-Italians, Indian and other Asian-Italians. This diversity allowed me to stand out as an individual and fit in as a member of the community at the same time.

From my perspective, Italy has two distinct black communities: Black-Italian (people who were born, raised and acculturated Italian) and Afro-Italian (individuals who had emigrated directly from Africa). The differences in these groups were significant to me because for once in my life I was seen as an outlier within a Black community.

I’m used to identifying with the Black community in the U.S., where ethnicities, while salient for individuals, are not always recognized by society. After learning the nuances of identity within the Black community in Italy, I expected to experience at least some discrimination based on my own African heritage — I was actually born in Liberia but grew up in the U.S. However, my American identity was perceived first and foremost.

The Africans in Italy could tell right away that I was different. I was identified as being American. This was a different feeling for me. For the first time, I felt my American identity could really shine.

Despite what some others may have experienced, I actually never once felt personally discriminated against during my semester in Italy. In fact, many people there embraced me — especially when I wore my Boston hat. Fun fact: Italians love Boston. My American identity and being from the Boston area both proved to be an advantage for me throughout my time in Italy.

After all, I wasn’t “African enough” in an obvious cultural way to pass as Afro-Italian and I definitely did not display enough of a European fashion sense to be considered Black-Italian. I was even seen as having lighter skin than Afro-Italians, while in the U.S. I am seen as having darker skin than most of my African-American friends. Being seen as American truly shaped my experience into a positive one — and this nuanced sense of identity allowed me to stand out while fitting in.

Since returning from Italy, I have shared my own experiences with others who are interested, and have encouraged other students of color to consider studying abroad. Last year, 40 percent of my college’s graduating senior class had studied abroad, and I feel other students should be part of this experience. I’m also trying to advocate for more African Americans to take part in overseas travel and study. . . . . .

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5 Handy Travel Tips for Dealing With a Canceled Flight

Because Cancelled Flights can also happen to Study Abroad Students **DB

“5 Handy Travel Tips for Dealing With a Canceled Flight”

by Catherine Northington via “WallStCheatSheet

For all the brilliant experiences and opportunities that air travel has brought us since its advent, there are a few major pitfalls to cope with in the process. Even the most cautious planners among us can’t predict erratic weather conditions, airline snafus, or other factors leading to cancellations. You can, however, follow these five tips to make the best of a canceled flight at the last minute!

1. Keep essentials in your carry-on

There are tons of helpful resources online when it comes to packing a reasonably sized carry-on bag of essential items. USA Today shares this article covering anything a traveler might need in a pinch, while The Every Girl offers itemized, female-specific lists to suit any travel occasion. Crucial items for any traveler include a toothbrush, hairbrush, moisturizer, headache medicine, chargers, headphones, and a sweater.

For additional tips on efficient packing, check out Lifehacker’s helpful tutorial on the subject.

2. Rebook by phone

Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge, an air-travel assistance firm, recommends that flyers immediately call the airline’s customer service number upon learning of a flight’s cancellation. Real Simple explains that this easy move will not only eliminate the need to join a long line of frustrated travelers at the check-in counter, but it will also expedite the entire rebooking process.

Always keep the airline’s phone number handy in your wallet or phonebook in the event of last-minute emergencies. USA Today reports that there are three major airlines that offer a “Rule 240″ clause, meaning that the carrier in question will seek out an available seat on another flight out of the airport — even if it’s on a competitor’s flight!

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10 Stories That Prove Study Abroad Changes You In The Best Possible Way

“10 Stories That Prove Study Abroad Changes You In The Best Possible Way”

by Suzy Strutner via “Huffington Post

What’s the place that changed you?”

We’re eternally nostalgic for college — the things we learned in class and out (okay let’s face it, mostly out) shaped us into the humans we are, quite probably more than any other chapter of our educational lives.

But for those of us who were lucky enough to study abroad, on-campus shenanigans seem like no substitute for the way a faraway place tugged at, molded and grew our souls. Something about the adrenaline rush of independence, coupled with the challenges of adjusting to a new place, language and culture, left us different than before in the BEST possible way.

We asked Huffington Post editors for the singular place that changed them while studying abroad during school. From a cafe in New Zealand to a pier in Spain to a cable car in the Italian mountains, these spots — and the powerful, personal stories that go with them — prove travel truly does change us permanently, and for the better.

Illustrations by Noelle Campbell

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rome
“I studied abroad in a neighborhood far away from the city center. It forced me out of my comfort zone — we were the only people in the building who spoke English, and acclimating with a language barrier was eye-opening. I have been inspired to take more risks. While I don’tfully attribute quitting my first job to pursue a writing career to my time spent abroad, it certainly broadened my horizons to do things that may have seemed too scary and uncomfortable before.” —Jamie Feldman, HuffPost associate style editor

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
“For the first few years of college, I didn’t really understand the concept of social drinking — I thought it fostered an environment of fake friendships and stupid decisions. When I experienced this adult carnival that simply celebrated having a good time and Prost-ing to life, it finally clicked. I discovered how to find that middle ground where you can just be silly surrounded by friends without being completely sloshed. It changed my entire outlook on college parties.” —Jessica Kane, HuffPost director of millennial outreach

Driving Creek Cafe in Coromandel, New Zealand
nz
“I worked at a vegetarian cafe in a rural fishing town. I learned the value of stillness. I learned the pleasures of homemade yogurt, hanging laundry out to dry, listening to strangers’ stories, taking the time to cook something or walk somewhere for a tea. Most of all, I really started to love myself for making decisions that had brought me to this beautiful place, despite the many mistakes I had made earlier.” —Antonia Blumberg, HuffPost associate religion editor

Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site in Aomori City, Japan
“When I enrolled in a six-week field school, I had dreams of artifacts springing from the ground like daisies. But when we arrived, we were not allowed to excavate in the actual historical site. Regardless, we went to work and dug big empty dirt square holes, hoping and praying to see something. Looking back, the whole experience helped me to develop an understanding that life is never what you plan or hope it to be, but you can still learn.” —Nicole Edine, Huffpost associate editor of strategic partnerships & social impact platforms . . . .

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“96 Travel Tips for a Student Budget”

“96 Travel Tips for a Student Budget”

by Kyle Owens via “GoOverseas.com”

backpackers in the backwoods

“College is a memorable time in your life where you can study, meet people and expand your cultural horizon. Why not take that one step further? As a student, you typically spend a lot of your time in the library or in the classroom, which doesn’t leave you too much time for fun. Now, many students empty their savings account and fly somewhere tropical for a spring break trip – but I’m here to tell you how to make those hard earned dollars take you even further (for even longer!). It’s very important to travel and learn about the world outside of your own; however, you don’t need to break your bank account in order to make that happen.

Typically, the cost for a person to buy a one-way ticket to another country is less than one thousand dollars. Now, once you’re there things are going to cost hundreds of dollars, right? Wrong! If you’re a frugal person (and most student travelers are), you can easily manage to fund a trip. You just have to know where to look – that’s where I come in. I have traveled pretty extensively as a student, so I know which corners to cut and which to keep. Who knows, maybe 1 or 2 of these 95 tips will even inspire you to book your own college trip and start traveling! Continue reading