Name: Tatiana Emilia Rosario
Hometown: Saint Paul. MN
Study abroad semester and location: Fall 2013/Moscow, Russia
What was the most unexpected thing you encountered during your off-campus study experience?
One of the most unexpected things that I encountered during my study abroad experience was the variety of people that I met and the long-lasting friendships I made. I was not expecting to be able to make so many friends in Russia considering how I look and where I come from but I was pleasantly surprised by how “welcomed” I felt by some people I met in my four months there.
What was the best meal you had abroad?
The best meal that I had abroad was at this Georgian Resturant in St.Petersburg—it was delicious! I had a kabob and cheesy bread, it was AMAZING. Georgian food became my favorite cuisine very quickly, it was sort-of similar to Russian food but with a twist. I also enjoyed eating a lot of Turkish food as well, there were stands all over Moscow, and it was fun tasting different ones to find our favorite Sulayman stand in all of Moscow.
How were you able to get involved with your host culture while abroad?
I participated in language exchanges and met a lot of Russians that way. It was really fun participating in language exchange because I was able to meet people my own age and it was a great way to learn about Russian culture! Some of the people I met were really nice and showed me around the city by taking me to “non-touristy” places.
How has your study abroad experience affected your identity as a minority back at Beloit?
I think that my experience was vastly different from that of my White-American pupils. It was a daily fact that people treated me different from them: in some ways it was great and in other ways I felt more isolated. For example, whenever I went to the stores with my fellow Beloiters (of whom were white), if they did not understand what the cashier said she would get angry or call them stupid because people would just assume they are Russian. However, if I didn’t know what I was doing or didn’t understand what was going on—people were usually nicer to me because they knew I was foreign. There would be other times when people would stare at me and I would get unwanted attention from drunken men—that was the worst but I learned to ignore it.
How did your identity as a minority influence your experiences abroad?
Being an Afro-Puerto Rican woman in Russia required me to have so much more confidence and awareness. Due to the fact that I looked so different from what most people in Russia were used to, I had to be prepared for anything at all times. Sometimes people would just come to me on the street and ask where I was from and what I was doing in Russia (in a friendly way) but other times I would hear old people talk about me in Russian as if I could not understand what they were saying. I wouldn’t say it was “easy” sticking out so much and being constantly approached but it definitely made me a stronger person because I knew no matter what, I had just as much right to be there as my white counterparts.
Why was it important to you, as a minority student, to study abroad?
It is important for me as a minority to study abroad because I think everyone deserves a chance to see what else the world has to offer. Although it can be harder and more worrisome as a minority to travel to aboard—I think it is very rewarding in the long run. I do not regret going at all, those four months in Moscow were the best four months of my life. I grew in so many more ways than I would have ever imagined and I did things that I would never have imagined an Afro-Puerto Rican girl from Minnesota would ever dream of.
Some words of advice for other minority students who want to study abroad:
Push yourself. That would be the best advice that I can give another minority student studying abroad. Yes, you will stick out and yes, people will stare (and in some cases objectify you) BUT do not let that ruin your experience! Be who you are and go into the experience expecting it to be a positive one and do everything in your power to get as much out of the experience as possible.