What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

So I just wanted to elaborate on my first Airbnb experience and to let others know what is out there!

The location of the Airbnb was not very good, which of course depends on what your plans are while staying in France. Yes, Herblay is fairly close to Paris, certainly closer than Pontoise, but it is a really small town. There is not much going on there in the way of nightlife, grocery shopping, events, etc. In fact there isn’t any perceptible sign of nightlife and there is one grocery store — but they do have a really nice farmer’s market Saturday mornings!

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Of Bad Days and Unexpected Culture Shocks

“Positivity all the time is kind of unrealistic,” said my friend while we were chatting about my experiences here in Mexico. I wholeheartedly agree. We are constantly told to maintain a positive attitude and be optimistic and that we will have a blast on study abroad. But we should remember that we are also human beings who have real emotions that should be addressed.

If I were to provide a bit of advice about study abroad, I would say to be honest with yourself. You are the most knowledgeable person about your own emotional state and needs. If you are having a bad day, acknowledge it. You don’t have to break down and cry if you don’t want to, but it’s not the end of the world if you do.

The truth is that bad days do happen — even in other countries.

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The Discovery of Meaningful Living through Cena, Antoni Gaudí

I had a melting pot of emotions before going international — this was my first time going abroad and “flying solo” (literally). I had no idea what to expect. All I had brought with me was a suitcase of comforts to remind me of home and the adequate ability to speak Spanish.

I was a bit uneasy and anxious at the thought of beginning this journey alone. However, as I touched down in BCN, all that fear had vanished.

I’ve been living in Barcelona for about a week and already I’ve been humbled by the culture that embraces me with hospitality, kindness and simplicity. If I’m keeping count of the number of touristic activities that served to educate me on the beautiful, unique qualities of Spanish culture, it is of considerable worth. Yet, as I truly reflect on processing the value hidden behind these excursions and my personal interactions with the natives of Barcelona, it carries even more significance.

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A Cultural Illumination in Justice

The recipe of a successful study abroad experience typically carries a checklist of core requirements: enthrallment in culture and society, academic captivation and meeting the right people.

You can have two out of the three and still call it a wonderful experience — but my personal list can go on, filled with checks that have made my study abroad experience one of the most memorable trips in my short but fruitful college career.

As a result, I am coming home with an extra beat and note to add to the incessant rhythm and melody of my life.

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Basketball, Construction and Volunteer Life in Madagascar

Five weeks down, five to go!

While my first two weeks in Madagascar actually felt like two weeks, the next three weeks passed so quickly that I can’t believe I’m already halfway done with my time here. Since I’m here for 10 weeks total, I have the unique opportunity to watch many different sets of volunteers come and go. It’s been wonderful to meet and get to know people from all over the world, but it also means that most of them will leave long before I do. It’s really nice to have friends who are here for a longer period of time like I am, but I enjoy getting to know everyone no matter how long their stay is.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, but here are some highlights.

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Coming Home; The Biggest Culture Shock of them All

I’m now back home after what was an amazing, life changing experience in Thailand. I know that the people I met will be friends when I come back to San Diego for school and the life lessons I learned will stick with me forever.

After starting the program in Chiang Mai, we spent the remainder the last 5-6 days in Bangkok. Bangkok is, as my former JMS teacher would say, is an “entirely different animal.” Bangkok is much more populated than Chiang Mai and a lot more busy.

Every night the city streets would be bustling with street vendors and tuk tuks and taxi drivers.

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Soy Americana

I know what the stereotypical American looks like. The country of my birth identifies me as African-American.  My own country misconstrues my national identity. However, a passage in my passport “requests all whom may be concerned to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

This is especially contemplative, considering how people of color are treated in the U.S. Traveling abroad, I am no longer a suspicious, hyphenated or sub-American —  I become a fully embodied U.S. citizen.

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