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Identities Abroad


I am: A Transfer Student

While a majority of my classmates were rising juniors or seniors with 2-3 years of experience at the University of Michigan under their belts, I was a bit of an outlier. As an Early College transfer student, I completed my associate’s degree at a small community college the year after high school graduation, then transferred to U of M with junior status. On campus, my higher grade level and younger age has made me feel like a misfit at times, because while I may be multiple years above my peers academically, my knowledge of the university and the city of Ann Arbor are still developing. Studying abroad in an entirely different country, though, negated the impacts of this identity. 

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I am: Muslim

I am a Muslim Pakistani student at the University of Michigan. While abroad, one thing I was worried about was not seeing a lot of other Muslims or South Asians, especially during the month of Ramadan. It was going to be hard to not be with my family during such a special month and I was worried how it was going to feel in London in one of my favorite months of the year.

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I am: Black

Being in Paris for three weeks seemed like it would be a breeze. It was simply three, short seven-day cycles then I would be home again. This fantasy was shattered as I experienced my first instance of racism abroad. Being a Black man in the United States, I have experienced many instances of racism, however the utter hypocrisy of French racism and their values baffled me and rattled me to my core.

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I am: A Heritage Seeker

A heritage seeker is someone who has a close connection to the country that they're visiting. Perhaps they were born there, their parents were born there, or even grandparents were born there. I was born in Vietnam and came to America when I was only a year old. Most of the trips I took to Vietnam occurred when I was younger, with the sole purpose of visiting family. Throughout my life, I sometimes felt like I was on this bridge trying to decide where I belong — Vietnam or the United States

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I am: A First-Time Traveller

All my life, I have been fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged and supported me studying abroad. However, I had never left the U.S. prior to this experience, and I felt geographically clueless when deciding where I wanted to study.

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I am: American

When our class volunteered with The HOME Project, a program that provides support and assistance to refugees, my identity as an American citizen and college student, and the privilege that this identity inherently holds, became very apparent to me. 

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Being Black Abroad: Europe Edition

Although we always hear the stories about how fun study abroad is and how much it changes your life, but we never hear about the reality for some of us that are minorities and how that affects that experience. I want to bring to light a few things that African American/black students and other students of color may face when they study abroad and give my advice on how to be black abroad.

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Coming Out… Again

Paris and Europe more broadly presented me with an opportunity to fully embrace myself. I stopped trying to put on an air or act in a certain way, I was just being me. I felt freer, no longer weighed down by preexisting notions of how I should behave or act. If I wanted to wear a fur coat to a nightclub, then I did. If I wanted to whip around a shoulder-length green wig in Dublin, then who cared. If I wanted to see Lana Del Rey perform in Barcelona, then that was my prerogative. I stopped worrying so much about what other people might think and started asking myself what made me happy. 

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Chronic Illness Abroad

Before I went on the trip I was really thinking about backing out. To help with my decision I turned to friends, family, and Google. Although it’s cheesy, I read this article about travelling while chronically sick that helped me out. In the article the author said something similar to “If you’re going to be sick, you might as well be sick in x country.” That rationale just made sense to me. You never know when you’re going to feel better with chronic sickness, or if you ever will feel better, so I decided I couldn’t let it keep me from taking advantage of an amazing opportunity. 

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Mental Health Abroad

When people think of study abroad, images of smiling college students standing in front of amazing structures or famous landscapes is often what comes to mind. It is no secret that study abroad is advertised as the most exciting and life changing experience a student can have,  and as someone who has participated in two study abroad opportunities at the University of Michigan, I can truthfully say that my time studying abroad has had a profound positive effect on my life. That being said, study abroad was also one of the most lonely times in my life, as well as a time when I struggled the most with mental health issues.

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