Student panelists talk about studying ‘Black and Abroad’
Traveling abroad presents a number of novel and challenging opportunities, and to the panel of students who spoke on Wednesday, studying abroad was both a learning experience and an opportunity to examine their own identities. Sponsored by the Brandeis Black Students Organization and in collaboration with the Office of Study Abroad, the “Black and Abroad” event centered around individuals’ experiences abroad as people of color. The seven panelists had each studied in different countries, ranging from England to Chile.
BBSO President Deborah Fataki ’19 initiated the discussions, noting that each of the perspectives presented were important not only because the panelists have their own experiences, but also because “relating these experiences to those of other students within a primarily white institution can be difficult to navigate on campus.”
Asked about what made the panelists choose their specific programs, Justus Davis ’19 responded that one of his motivations in participating in the Brandeis-affiliated Singapore study abroad program was the classes it offered. He explained that after creating his own major, Digital Art and Culture, at Brandeis, Davis was interested in taking classes that were also aligned with his major but taught from a different perspective.
Carmella Belizaire ’19 explained since her interest in public health relates to the “disparities in minority communities,” her program, an outgoing exchange program in Mexico and Cuba, focused on the aspect of public health that is centered around indigenous Latin American communities and medical Spanish. “[The] majority of our words in English come from Latin and Greek, whereas in Mexico, much of the word comes from the derivation itself,” Belizaire explained, highlighting one of the main communicational differences between English and Spanish medicinal practices.
As the conversation continued, Fataki asked the panelists that went abroad and were required to use a different language how it felt to be in a place that is different. Minnie Norgaise ’19, who attended the China Educational Tours Beijing and Taipei program, responded that “understanding the language is like ‘pulling out a super power,’” which she says really impacted her experiences with the native community.
Davis said that while attending the outgoing exchange program at the National University of Singapore, he was “shocked by how well organized the location appeared,” taking notice of how impressively Singapore was marketed to travelers and tourists. However, Davis explained that while taking a class on critical race theory in Singapore, he noticed that, unlike at other universities such as Brandeis, the idea of challenging the education presented is typically not done.
Kareken Johnson ’19, who studied abroad at Oxford, discussed his experiences with navigating discussions about race on the campus. He explained that in terms of nationality and race, “there needs to be a discussion on mental health and navigating through universities that are primarily white as a minority or POC.”
In closing, Fataki explained that as students of color, “there are many different things that we have to think about that other students may not have to,” and it’s important to continue these conversations across campus.