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All blog posts are by University of Michigan students who have participated in a CGIS program. The following blogs are students studying abroad in the United Kingdom.
Alana explores differences between African Americans and Black Londoners
When I first arrived in London I knew I had to meet black Londoners and see how they live and are treated compared to black people in America. I wanted to see if racism and discrimination are as bad in London as it is in the U.S. Initially when I arrived I felt that people weren’t judging me based on my race. I didn’t feel like I had to constantly be aware of my race and how people would react to me. I was a person before I was black. But after speaking to Londoners about Brixton, an area heavily populated by black people, the area was deemed dangerous. Actually going to Brixton showed something different. The area was nice, full of culture, and not dangerous as it had been portrayed. The experience just made me realize that London has just as many problems with racism and discrimination but the issues are more subtle. People aren’t overtly racist as they are in the U.S., but the issues exist.
Darlena talks intersectional identities and being a Black woman in England
I have been blessed with the opportunity to be able to fully immerse myself in a different culture. This being my first time being overseas long-term, this experience gave me a new outlook on life. I’ve observed how people treat each other, especially minorities, and how it compares to how people of color are treated in the United States. For the first time, I wasn’t forced to be aware of my race 100% of the time because where I went was extremely diverse and wasn’t overtly racist. Of course every country has its problems, but it was refreshing to be able to be myself and not have to defend my appearance or defend my position in the environment in which I resided. This experience was much needed and gave me a completely new outlook racial relations.
Indra connects to Latinx community in London
This has been a dream come true to me. I had always dreamed of traveling to another country to study, but it felt like a far reaching goal of mine. Being in a new country taught me so much about myself. I have always described myself as a shy and reserved person, but I felt like I truly stepped out of my comfort zone in London. I learned how to become more independent and not to be afraid to try new things no matter how scary they might sound. I found myself being more friendly and outgoing. Because of this, I was able to meet so many people from different parts of the world due to the fact that London is so diverse. Meeting new people was one of my highlights of my study abroad experience because I was able to learn about different cultures through their stories and traditions.
Kenedi finds connection to UM while abroad
Being a part of the University of Michigan community helped enhance my trip so much! Even though I was so far from home I could always count on finding someone wearing a UM sweatshirt or hat if I looked hard enough. While I was on my trip I met so many other UM students who were in their own study abroad programs or were just traveling on their own. It is so incredible and very comforting that we have such a wide network of people literally all across the world.
Sidney finds connection between program and CASC minor
My name is Sidney Arrington and I am an alumna of the University of Michigan. While completing my undergraduate studies I majored in Political Science with a minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC). At UMich I began my study abroad journey the summer going into junior year; traveling to Israel/Palestine to learn about conflict resolution and co-resistance in the Middle East. The following summer I went abroad again and traveled to Tanzania to strengthen my Swahili speaking skills. Even though I graduated I decided to study abroad because of the immersive and transformative experience you gain. I wouldn't say I chose to study in Contemporary London, but London chose me. Originally, I applied to the CGIS Paris program and was denied; however, was given the opportunity to study in London. I accepted the invitation to study because the program highlights activism and culture in London, which are two interests of mine. Additionally, if you have not noticed that I love to travel to add to my blog about things I learned, food I have tried, and must-see sites.
Aleksandra connects to Polish identity and community action in London
I wouldn’t change the time I had in London for the world. This trip meant so much to me, for it was the first time I was able to travel to another country outside of the US and my motherland, Poland, which is familiar and with family. In addition, I was on my own, which allowed me to grow as I learned to navigate a whole new country by myself.
Brianne discovers new interests and discusses being an outsider abroad
While abroad I learned a lot about my identity, the personalities I mesh with and the ones I don't, I experienced uncomfortable learning situations regarding race & culture, and I also was able to push myself to new limits, allowing me to independently grow. If it wasn't for this program, I would have never experienced any of this and I am so thankful for my opportunity.
Camille talks about standing out abroad as an American
The main identity that impacted my time abroad was my American nationality. London is one of the most diverse cities in England and Europe, so I never felt like the only person of color or Black person in the room, train, or area. However, whenever I began to speak, heads would turn because they heard the American accent. This was especially apparent in places that didn’t get a lot of tourists. I didn’t really expect this to be the main thing that made me stand out in London, but it definitely was.
Ihuanaya connects to local culture and family while in London
London has been amazing in more ways than I could’ve thought. The city and this trip gave me so much. I was able to connect with family whom I have never met or haven’t seen in years. The architecture and history gave me so much more insight into how London has been able to be a world leader. My bank account would beg to differ, but I believe that your money will always come back. The experiences the trips give you are one in a lifetime.
Katerine discusses Latina identity and mental health challenges
Being a Latina in London was one of the best feelings while abroad. I was surrounded by people from all races and ethnic backgrounds that it was rare I felt like my identity made me feel out of place. Instead, I felt like my identity helped me connect more with other people because they wanted to learn about me just as much as I wanted to learn about them. There is a mass amount of Latinx individuals living in London, and it was so great to be able to learn from people who were also LatinX, but had so many different traditions compared to my own. I felt like while I was abroad I had the opportunity to connect more with the community I am a part of, while learning about others’ culture and tradition.
Moncerrat connects with Latinx community in London
Before traveling to the United Kingdom, one of my biggest worries was how I would be perceived as a Latinx woman in another country. I had little knowledge about Brexit and was worried about the xenephobic comments that could potentially be made. Additionally, I felt uncomfortable being asked the “Trump'' question, being that I am Mexican-American. However, when I arrived in London the only reason I felt out of place was because of my identity as “American” rather than my Latinx identity. This sensation was baffling as I felt that for the first time my American identity came first than my Latinx identity. It was interesting to be considered an American citizen since I feel I am considered a secondary citizen in my presumed “home” country.
Paris discusses Black identity in the UK
Studying abroad for the second time in my college career was an exciting opportunity for me. Coming from a family background that barely left the state of Michigan, this only made me want to leave the country more. Going to London was not my plan at first, but I can proudly say I am extremely happy that I studied abroad in the UK.
Tiahna talks activism and being a minority abroad
I was originally introduced to this program by my Community Action and Social Change (CASC) minor advisor. He guided me to this program not only for its benefits to the minor, but also because he felt like it would be in line with my interests. I hadn't looked into the program before this, but after reading about it for a few hours I felt like it would be in line with my interests in the lives of minorities in predominantly white countries. I felt like what I learned here could translate to my activism in the United States.
Valerie discusses Latinx identity
Being Latinx in a predominately white institution has always been a challenge. During my freshman year, I struggled a lot with my identity and being in a place that felt like I didn’t belong. I would exclude myself or purposely not place myself in situations where I knew that I was going to be the only Latina. However, spending more time at Michigan allowed me to both embrace my identity and also face my anxieties about an irrational fear of exclusion.
Frosilda talks public health and finding Albanian community abroad
Traveling thousands of miles to London to learn about the UK’s national health system and developing a newfound respect for their public health efforts, history, and government, I never would have concluded that London might just be a city that I consider living in in the future. From visiting the Broad Street Pump where all of John Snow’s efforts in tracing the cholera outbreak became significant to exploring the inside of Parliament where important history took place and is still being made.
Hira finds religious community abroad
I am a Muslim Pakistani student at the university. Being aboard, 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 like in London during one of my favorite months of the year. However, London blew away all my expectations.
Mihir talks health care and interactions with diversity individuals
The program helped me to further my knowledge on the topic by applying and further diving deeper into our topic, healthcare, and how it is accessed by the people on a global scale and how it differs from our system. It was interesting to look at all the differences and the things that make their system work to see where we can incorporate some of the policies in our system. Helping people by just providing them with healthcare, which is what I want to do, is not enough. We must be able to provide people with equal access and better healthcare, given that we are spending so much of our GDP on healthcare. Also, this trip gave me a chance to interact with a diverse group of people from both countries, which only enhanced my understanding and interpersonal skills which will be helpful in the future.
Rachel discusses her identity as a woman
As a group we traveled to Oxford and Cambridge, two very important areas for the advancement of science and mathematics. We explored museums that held vital scientific discoveries for the field of medicine, such as the mold that turned out to be penicillin or the water pump that led John Snow to the idea that cholera was spread through contaminated water. There is something so surreal about being in the place where all these advancements were discovered, which saved many lives years down the road.
Seongbae addresses perceptions of Asian-American identity in London
The GCC London study abroad was my first time in Europe, and I met many different people throughout this trip. The people I met in Britain were certainly kind, and while there was some sense of sarcasm whenever I spoke to a British person, it was never in a negative manner but more playful than anything. I remember how my group went on many walking tours of London, and we enjoyed every tour guide we had. They were all open to talking about past and current events and were very knowledgeable on the general history of the UK. In class, we had a guest speaker who talked to us about the history of the National Health Service in the UK and was able to answer every question we had regarding that topic. All of those people allowed me to learn a lot about the health and health care in the UK, and I was excited to be experiencing all of it within London itself.
Madeline discusses new perspectives and SES status
My time in London has made me see the world with a new perspective. There is so much that I don’t know about that I haven’t seen, and being able to meet new people and explore new places has really broadened my horizons. For the first time, I am considering moving abroad after I graduate and starting my career in a new country. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
Grayson discusses identity in the UK
Growing up, I constantly dreamt of one day travelling across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. I had always had an infatuation with this place – its famous history, its beautiful landscapes, its bustling cities. I had experienced so much of the U.K. through media, but I knew that I could never fully understand and appreciate its culture until I stepped upon its shores.
Kennedy reflects on her spring term in London
Just four more days until I’m in London! I just finished finals a little over a week ago, so I’ve hit the ground running since I got home. I’ve been doing a lot: unpacking my things from school, packing for six weeks for London, doing a ton of last minute shopping, seeing family and friends, and I’ve been reading one of the books that Professor Matthews assigned us. Today, I’m going to exchange my currency for pounds.
Kaylee reflects on her spring term in London
The time is finally here! The night before I fly across the Atlantic to my new home for the next six weeks - London! I am very excited for this trip, it will be my second time abroad and another European country to check off of my bucket list. Besides all of the mayhem of packing and saying all of my goodbyes to friends and family, I’ve found some time for reflection that I can hopefully look back on at the end of my trip.
Maya reflects on her spring term in London
In the summer of 2017, I started my academic journey at the University of Michigan. I had no idea then that I would ever be halfway across the world studying in London. I chose this program because one of my closest friends that I met at a high school summer camp was actually raised here. When we first met, I told her everything about the States and in exchange she told me everything about London. So when I learned there was a program that incorporated my love for literature and my desires to visit the city, I applied.
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Nyeri reflects on her spring term in London
Every morning that I have woken up here so far, I get up and pull apart the drapes to my window. I open the window and listen to folks talk beneath me. Thick British accents travel up to my window along with cigarette smoke and I grin. I realize I'm in a place I always thought was quite unreachable for me. But here I am, within ear and nostril reach.