By: Lauren Holley, Staff Reporter
A study done by NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, exposed a major lack of black students abroad. The study claims that nearly 72-percent of students studying abroad are white. Though African-American people make up 14.1-percent of US postsecondary enrollment, they only accounted for 5.9-percent of students abroad during the 2015-2016 school year.
The low involvement of black students studying abroad is primarily an issue of lack of information, resources and access. Many black students think it is impossible for them to pursue education overseas. This is where #StudyAbroadSoBlack comes in.
#StudyAbroadSoBlack is a hashtag introduced by Howard’s Ralph J. Bunche Center with the goal of encouraging black travelers to share pictures and tales of their journeys and encourage others to see the world as well. The hashtag is described in the Bunche Center’s mission statement as “both a declaration and a call to action letting it be known that studying abroad is a learning experience that is accessible and necessary for students at Howard and elsewhere.”
The Bunche Center tweeted the hashtag “is a movement that does not belong solely to us” and encourages black students not just from Howard, but from everywhere, to use #StudyAbroadSoBlack. With this hashtag, students can see that black people do, in fact, travel overseas and that spending a semester away isn’t a “white people thing.”
The hashtag also aims to ease potential travelers’ anxieties about not seeing black people in foreign countries or being the only black traveler. Another factor in the mission statement is to ensure that black students know they are “able, supported, and encouraged to seek out global learning opportunities.” This hashtag is a space for underrepresented stories of the common study abroad narrative.
Promotion of the study abroad program is one of the Bunche Center’s many missions regarding Howard students and their relationship with the larger world. They also aim to promote the integrating of global perspectives into the Howard University experience, deeper scholarship on global issues, cross-cultural dialogue and respect for cultural diversity. With this in mind, the Ralph J. Bunche Center remains a crucial resource in the journey toward studying abroad.
There are a plethora of reasons to study abroad not limited to getting to experience new languages and cultures, which are exciting on their own. “Studying abroad creates a foundation for anything you do after,” said study abroad program manager MaRaina Montgomery. As a student, Montgomery studied abroad in Spain, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and South Africa.
Students abroad can learn about their majors in an international context and even have a chance to explore more of what blackness means. There are various educational intentions of studying abroad, but students also benefit from learning more about themselves.
Senior Political Science and Spanish double major Allison Burns spent the entirety of her junior year abroad. She has studied in Mexico, Cuba and Spain among other places.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” Burns said.
Aside from simply attending classes, she cites the importance of cultural experiences she has participated in: cooking classes, Salsa classes, trying new restaurants and scuba diving to see ruins.
In addition to the cultural experiences, Burns mentions how going overseas helped her to see her major on an international scale. As a political science major, she was in Spain to witness the country’s prime minister being ousted in a vote of no confidence. She was in Cuba while President Trump restricted business and travel.
“Howard will be here when you get back,” Burns said.
Though the application period for Spring 2019 has ended. The Ralph J. Bunche Center hosts informational sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m.