+ Stories About Identity +
"Studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Traveling 8,000 miles away from home was the most affirming and healing choice of action during the hardest time of my life. I was so thankful to be able to fund my study abroad through a plethora of scholarships. My motivation for going abroad was moved by many things: the social justice culture within South Africa drew me to want to learn hands-on from the everyday people I would interact with, the similarity of racial dynamics embedded within the history of South Africa as to the United States of America interested me, the desire to connect and learn about the African continent, culture, and people as an African American woman captivated me, and the beautiful aesthetic of Cape Town, South Africa drew me to spend a semester abroad at the University of Cape Town. As someone who believed that they had an open mind, I learned so much about the world and my position as a black woman around the globe. I was inspired to take action, understand the different ways in which I wanted to protest as an activist, and to take my passion for my art more seriously."
"I am a Muslim American-Pakistani woman, and all these identities were just words on a page for me until I went to Morocco. Entering Morocco, a Muslim nation, made me question what that title really meant. Whenever I would go anywhere on the streets people would ask me what I was. Who am I? I would reply American and they would look confused, the brownness of my skin not connecting to what they see in Hollywood movies, politics, or anything on the media as American. I would then clarify stating that my parents are from Pakistan and then they would nod and laugh in understanding. However, when I started to do the opposite—calling myself Pakistani first, they would still be skeptical, noting my accent and clothes. Soon this grew frustrating and I started to envy my white-American friends who could just say they were American and continue with their lives, sometimes even having people be more open to them due to their blatant 'Americanness'. I was too confusing for them to understand. Studying abroad changed my perspective on how I interact with others, but more specifically myself. All the challenges were new, unexpected and now looking back I am so glad I made the choices that I did. I hope to relay these same stories to kids in the future, hoping that I will inspire some twelve-year-old girl like me to keep that thought in the back of her mind, so when the day comes she will also take that step out into the world and make it."
"I recently made a trip to Lake Como, Italy, which is at the foot of the Dolomites Mountains in Northern Italy. I think this trip was the culmination of my study abroad experience, and where I felt most at home. As a student who spoke no Italian, came with no previously formed friendships, and knew little about my host country, getting acclimated to my surroundings was tough, but the way that I've grown and changed through my time here will stay with me always. Being in a setting so far from home makes you open to new experiences, and less afraid of change. You learn to find quirks in the culture that you previously felt so alien to, and at the end of your experience, you will find that you've actually become part of that culture and are unwilling to part with it. Writing this, I am still in my tiny Italian apartment at the edge of the city center of Florence, and it'll be hard to leave this all behind."
“One of the biggest challenges I had in Mexico was accepting that I was there and deserved to be there. I would never been able to afford this study abroad experience on my own. As a minority, first generation college, and EOF student, I was eligible for many opportunity and diversity programs. Although I am so grateful for all the experiences I have gained through this amazing program, I felt like I didn’t deserve everything I accomplished. Being Mexican amplified these feelings a bit. I felt I didn’t deserve to be here and that I couldn’t make it because without the program and scholarships I wouldn’t have even been in Mexico. Working at the clinic helped me realize that if the adult care facility could accept help, then I could as well. I could use the help I have gotten to study abroad to create an amazing future and actually make an impact on this world. Realizing this was actually my favorite part of the study abroad experience.”