By: Brittany S
As a Black American, I cringe whenever I go abroad and hear other Americans and non-Americans alike describe what it is like in America. Almost every description I have ever heard describes mainstream America, not its subcultures. But who is at fault for this? Is it A—the non-ethnic American that reports their culture as if it represents the (approximately) other 31.3 million of us? Or is it B—the non-American that takes the opinions of one or a few and solidifies their perspective of the entire group? By all standards, that is not a large enough sample size to be statistically significant. Answer? A, B, and C. What’s C? ME. Because I let my own assumptions about going abroad keep me from going, I let A be the only representation for B, who might only know what they’ve been told. When I sat and thought about my assumptions and realized that’s all they were, I opened my heart to new possibilities. So here is a piece of me, from my heart to yours. Hopefully this will help you give up your assumptions, whatever they may be. Ultimately, my decision to go abroad stemmed from the fact that the majority of my hesitations were just assumptions and nothing more. I shared a few of them here.
1—I’m broke and should be at home working to pay off debt, not out playing in another country.
I’m an educator by trade, an English educator at that. What am I doing abroad right now? Teaching English. I’m definitely not over here playing. Also, the amount of money that I make here compared to what I would make at home is less, but so is the cost of living. In fact, it is so much lower that I have money left over to pay off student loans, credit card bills, send money home for emergencies, AND travel to different COUNTRIES (not cities, but countries). For those of you who are not interested in education professions, there are other options. I know several people who are engineers, auditors, etc and they are expat women of color, too. Don’t let this thought be a hindrance for you the way it was for me. I could have been traveling earlier when I took a break from school to try and sort some things out.
2—I can’t pack a lot of stuff, I’m going to look sloppy the whole time I’m there. L
|My hair now. It survived! My friend straightens her own hair.|
do a big chop and mix & match a bunch of rags, but what I am saying is being abroad makes you appreciate living in the moment, not being seen as a moment passes you by. People remember their encounters with me for the witty/silly things I said, not the way I was dressed. But don’t fret. If you really feel naked without all your accessories and MUST be able to shop, trust me, there is plenty of shopping available! You can shop til you drop almost anywhere. All I am saying is that for me, being abroad has helped me detach myself from a lot of the materialistic things I once felt dysfunctional without. I am glad I finally forced myself to stop thinking that way and I hope to be able to continue to develop this new outlook wherever I am.
3—If I go alone, what will I do? I won’t be able to go anywhere/do anything, especially if English is not an official language there.
|Cool things happen when you go exploring.|
When I lived in America, I never went anywhere alone. Yes I went to work/class or to run my errands, but a social event or setting, never! If I had to arrive solo, I was soon to meet someone else. I finally worked up the courage to go to the mall alone, but even then I texted or chatted with someone almost the entire time. I was overly dependent on group interactions. Being in another country can break you out of that. There are times that I go eat, shopping, or take trips to different countries or cities with me, myself, and I. (Don’t worry, even if English isn’t an official language, there are tons of tourist-friendly resources available that have made all my travel pretty simplistic.)
For some, it can be out of necessity, but in many cases, I have chosen to do these things alone because I wanted to. To me, living abroad is a chance to have a clean slate if you so choose. A lot of my assumptions extended beyond what is there for me in another country all the way to what is there for me in life. I felt I was expected to be in a societal mold that I dare not escape. Being over here has allowed me to not only step out of the mold, but reshape it so it is pleasing to ME first, not others. So who cares if some people think it is socially awkward to do X,Y,Z alone? I’m learning to think otherwise. Why let others keep me from my happiness?