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Student Panel: studying abroad as a student of color

January 16, 2013 at 9:54 pm

On Sunday, more than a half-dozen Beloit College students and staff will explore a unique element of studying abroad—what it’s like to live in a foreign country as a domestic minority. The panel discussion will take place Sunday (Jan. 20) from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the Intercultural Center, with free pizza to follow.

Karla Figueroa, Tatiana Rosario, Anthony Otey,  Kidan Araya, Fernando Clark, Nzingha Hall, and Josh Moore will comprise the panel, in an event that organizer Rosario says she hopes will help all students considering going abroad.

Below, several of the panel member share their experiences in their own words, in a preview of Sunday night’s event.

Kidan Araya

Kidan Araya
Majors:
International relations and environmental studies
Study abroad country:
Cameroon
Araya’s experience: As a black American, I do not think most people, including my study abroad program coordinators, realized that I would encounter specific problems and situations regarding my race, skin color, and identity because to them, I was a black student studying in a black country. However, I found myself having to navigate through multiple social identities and new-found challenges and privileges in living in a society and culture where my race, skin color, gender, and social class meant something completely different than what it has meant in my experience living in the United States.

Ultimately, my experience in Cameroon showed me the necessity for colleges like Beloit and study abroad providers to start thinking about the specific challenges and situations students of color go through while abroad in order to incorporate education and support about these issues into their program orientations and frameworks.

Karla Figueroa

Karla Figueroa
Majors:
Economics and international relations; Chinese language minor
Study abroad country:
Jinan, China
Figueroa’s experiences:
Studying abroad can be challenging, so be open to uncertainty. Often times, we shy away from uncertainty, but it's essential to personal growth and development.

Tatiana Rosario

Rosario
Majors:
Russian and political science
Study abroad country:
Russia, fall 2013
Rosario’s experience:
I started this panel because I have been accepted to study in Russia in the fall, but originally was not planning to go because I felt that I would stick out too much in Russia as a black Puerto Rican. However, after talking to Karla Figueroa about her trip to China and to other domestic minorities who have studied abroad, I decided to go through with it. I feel like there is a lack of discussion about the unique experiences of domestic minorities abroad and I wanted to provide other students with some resources that could possibly encourage more domestic minorities to go aboard.

I feel that the reason why many domestic minorities choose not to study abroad goes beyond financial restraints and has a lot more to do with having their racial difference magnified. I think that this panel will allow domestic minorities (and other students as well) to have a meaningful discussion about those fears about race and social hierarchy abroad and encourage more domestic minorities to take these amazing opportunities, even if they will be "different.”

I also think that discussion is especially meaningful to have before MLK week because it speaks a lot to Dr. King’s dream and message. It also reminds us of the persisting significance of race, both domestically and abroad.

Anthony Otey

Anthony Otey
Major:
Comparative literature
Study abroad countries:
Brazil and France
Otey’s experience:
I studied abroad in Sao Paulo, Brazil during fall 2011, and Paris, France during the spring of 2012. I went to both countries for language study and to learn about their national literatures.

It was one of the best years of my life and it taught me to be independent; I had a lot of financial issues, but it taught me how to survive. I gained self-confidence and memories that will last me a lifetime.