Name: Miro Frankzerda
Hometown: Summit, Oregon
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2013, Sydney, Australia
What was your favorite place in your host city/country?
I fell in love with Tasmania during “spring” break. The pure and diverse beauty of the land combined with the organic values of the locals really resonated with me. I spent one day biking through endless fields of sheep and the next lounging on a lonely beach with a killer break that made me long for a surfboard. While it exists mostly as a tourist destination and retirement island, I would happily return for the latter.
What did you bring home as a souvenir?
While I did score a boomerang and grab some vegemite, my most important souvenirs are my memories that I kept in my personal journal and blog.
What did you miss most from home/Beloit?
Further than missing family and friends, I desired the deeper connections that are built in relationships over years of experiences and trust. If friendships are seven part novels, repetition of the first chapters frustrated me. By the end of my stay, a few novels had me captivated but it took time to get there.
How has your study abroad experience affected your identity as a minority back at Beloit?
As a mostly hidden racial minority, I often find myself fielding questions and blind guesses about my family’s heritage (and where my name originated). Most simply, my mother’s family emigrated from Indonesia via the Netherlands and my father’s mother is Mexican (it’s actually more complicated). This synthesis of ethnic and cultural influence has allowed me to identify superficially with many backgrounds but fully with none.
While abroad, I spent time with delightful individuals from all over the world and bonded over our new home in metropolitan Sydney. Twice I met Indonesian women whose family originated in the same jungle terrain as my oma and opa. I could not help but think of my own genesis and how my life would have been if the Indonesian Revolution had a different ending. This time has allowed me to grow into my identity as a new-wave cultural and ethnic mutt.
How will your study abroad experience be beneficial to you in the future?
In so many ways! I have made valuable friendships with individuals from Sri Lanka to Austria who I will see again one day. On a personal level, I have grown more comfortable with myself. There is something about hitchhiking through Tasmania or successfully cooking a dinner for half a dozen Aussie’s that helps ink in my foundation.
Some words of advice for other minorities who want to study abroad:
Do the research and jump! Depending on the location and individual, there is potential for lots of uncomfortable situations. However, I believe that (careful) discomfort is extremely important for personal growth and finding solace in many areas.