Why African American Students Should Study Abroad
The concept of studying abroad is to take your domestic education to an international level; to learn and to contribute to the educational process in a foreign setting. This becomes difficult when culturally different groups shy away from the challenge for a variety of reasons. In the perspective of an African American, the major obstacle that keeps us from studying abroad are financial, but there are also factors such as psychological roadblocks that are subconsciously created through environmental influence. If these barriers were overcome, many more African Americans students would show efforts to study abroad or hold interest in it.
Lack of capital (or knowledge of scholarship opportunities) is one of the major reasons black students are not going abroad. Many believe that you have to pay out-of-pocket or apply for distinguished scholarships like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program or the Fulbright Scholarship that are fully funded but very competitive. There are other scholarships and financial aid out there to help pay for their international education. Although it is understandable that even with partial scholarships, it is still a hassle to cover the remaining balance or to get the initial requirements for a passport, visa or plane ticket. This is where familial support tends to be a challenge.
If any black family is like mine, they are overly protective and full of questions about the destination and potential dangers that come with foreign nations. Due to their limited (or zero) experience traveling abroad, they are forced to rely on overly exaggerated media coverage. For me, my family tried desperately dissuade me from going to China based on potential racism and events that were occurring in nearby countries. Although I thought the concept of racial prejudice was preposterous, the thought of coming into conflicts regarding the political landscape and international issues was a bit troubling. But I prayed and went anyway! I tell potential black study or internship abroad students all the time that racism isn’t a hot topic in most countries as it is in the U.S. and should not be the only reason you forgo an opportunity like this.
Another reason African American students do not study abroad is because it is just not part of their college checklist. Students go to college in hopes of joining clubs, sports, and greek life. The thought of studying abroad is not a common thing college students are informed about before stepping foot on a college campus. With influence from alumni like myself, family, faculty and friends, study abroad will quickly move to the top of their list.
Many African American students are missing out on life-changing opportunities. Maybe from psychological or external factors, but regardless, ALL students should leave the United States once in their lives to experience life outside of their norms and standards for positive life-changing moments!
Nakia E. is a CEA Alumni. She studied abroad in Shanghai in the Summer of 2016 and is currently a graduate student at Texas State University.