Name: Caitlin Gunn
Hometown: Corvallis, OR
Study abroad semester and location: Fall 2013, New Zealand
What was your favorite place in your host city/country?
I totally fell in love with the city of Wellington. I think of Wellington as the major cultural hotspot of NZ, with tons of museums and art and amazing food. The city has a fun vibe, and it’s gorgeous to boot. I spent time there travelling alone-- which I totally recommend if you are able to do it safely.
What did you miss most from home/Beloit?
l really missed my various communities-- from the “Beloit Bubble” to the broader black community. I think I took it for granted that there are people around that look like me, talk like me, and understand my cultural positionality.
Also, I really missed pudding cups.
How did your identity as a minority influence your experiences abroad?
Blackness takes on a variety of meanings outside of a US context. That may sound obvious, but there has been a big difference for me between knowing that and embodying that. In New Zealand, there was limited context for blackness of any kind, let alone the kind I was used to occupying. Coming from a country steeped in a black/white dichotomy to be thrown into the margins was kind of a trip.
Did having a background as a minority student provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
As a minority student, I was equipped to deal with the social and cultural tensions that arise naturally when you study abroad. Navigating those kinds of interpersonal encounters is something minority students have been doing their whole lives.
Some words of advice for other minority students who want to study abroad:
Be patient. Learn and practice coping mechanisms for dealing with micro-aggressions. Get comfortable with being looked at. Most of all, do what you need to do to preserve your emotional well-being and dignity.