Program and Location:
Summer, FYI in Prague; Prague, Czech Republic
Fashion and Textile Management/International Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to have the experience to travel not just in general but specifically to a historic city. In addition, I love this experience because it gave me a chance to see how a full semester of studying abroad would be in terms of managing course load and exploring with friends.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I was completely fine being away from home, but also had to remain in touch. A foreign country offers a lot of cultural differences that can be challenging to take on with an open heart. For me, it was the simple things like having to pay for water or not getting my traditional version of pizza that I craved. I learned that even though I love experiencing different cultures, even I have my limits. I have to take the steps to combat the effects of culture shock so that I can enjoy future experiences even more.
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
My favorite part of Prague was any free time That we had to explore. With such a short program, we got to fit in a lot of tours and other excursions. However, I loved exploring with friends to find the best and cheapest places to eat in the Square or discovering an underground jazz club.
What advice do you have to future study abroad students?
My advice is to stay open minded because new things are not weird they are just different. Make sure to manage your reactions and understand the history of where you’re going. You cannot judge a culture based on how your own culture interacts. For example, we smile to each other in passing in the US, but Czechs do not. This does that make them rude as you learn it’s rooted in communist history behind this country. Come to a full understanding of everything and don’t get upset when they don’t do what you do!
How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
In the future, I want to be able to travel with my online fashion company. With Prague, I was able to get the diverse experience of traveling in a smaller city with metro and tram systems. I can really see myself living and this type of city either in Europe, Japan, or Korea. My goal is to continue becoming a well-rounded, global citizen to create awareness of different cultures through clothing designs and studying abroad.
In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?
I was one of three black girls on this trip and we often got stares. They were obvious stares that were mostly at our hairstyles that they couldn’t understand. My friend had long, reddish hair twisted in that she would style in updos since it was summer. A group of women actually came up to her asking for pictures because they thought she looked like Beyonce. Of course, this would never happen in the US. Everyone there knows we look very different from Destiny’s Child, but people in other cultures have nothing else to compare us to. It comes from lack of exposure and it gives me a twisting feeling in my gut. I want to help spread my culture without being stared at or made fun of. Overall, the encounter with these people went well, but what happens when it doesn’t?
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Don’t let them get to you. Make the best of a situation: smile. It doesn’t matter what they do it matters how you react.
Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?
I often called my parents when things were getting tough.
Would you do it again?
This post was originally published in Study Abroad.