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A New World of Possibilities

Economics senior Jordan Gibson shares his experiences abroad
image of Jordan Gibson
Pictured here is Jordan Gibson at a tribal naming ceremony in Ghana, Africa.

When Jordan Gibson first came to UT by way of the small Texas town of Fairfield, the idea of studying abroad never really crossed his mind. It wasn’t until he joined the Sweatt Center for Black Males when his interest in world travel started to pique.

“To be honest, I never even considered studying abroad; it just wasn’t something I wanted to do,” says Gibson, who is a senior majoring in economics. “When I started working as a research assistant for the Sweatt Center for Black Males and heard Dr. Walker talking about how life changing these trips are, the idea kept running in the back of my mind.”

Eventually, Gibson took Dr. Devin Walker’s advice and applied for his very first study abroad trip to Dubai/Abu Dhabi. Looking back at this decision, Gibson believes this was the tipping point for a new world of adventure.

“You won’t know how beneficial traveling abroad is until you do it,” Gibson says. “Just experiencing a new culture for even a short amount of time can open your eyes to the world around you. You’ll meet some great people, make some new friends who otherwise you’d probably never meet, and you’ll build so much confidence in yourself.”

Led by Dr. Devin Walker, director of the Sweatt Center for Black Males and Global Leadership and Social Impact (GLSI), the trip included tours of major sites and landmarks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), camelback rides across the desert sands, and a visit to the NYU-UAE campus. While on campus, they attended a “Blackness Without Borders,” academic panel featuring Black faculty who currently live and work in the UAE.

“It was great to hear advice by Black faculty on how to travel abroad while Black, especially in places where there’s a small percentage of people who look like you,” Gibson says. “It was powerful to hear a panelist share how he feels a sense of comfort and belonging when he sees someone in a hijab, which wasn’t the case before he moved to the UAE. It just goes to show how much your perspective can change when you immerse yourself abroad.”

Shortly after returning to the states, Gibson packed his bags once again for another GLSI trip to South Africa, where he lived, worked and studied in Cape Town. Of all his experiences from the trip—which included music festivals, beach volleyball and volunteer work at a local bike shop/coffeehouse—he will never forget the time he summited Table Mountain.

“I’m not a big hiker, but I figured this was a time to experience a new experience in a new place, so I had to do it. It was tough—like two hours of being on the Stairmaster at a high setting! But once I got to the top, words couldn’t describe the beauty I saw from above.”

Captivated by the possibilities of world travel, Gibson later participated in the Sweatt Center for Black Males’ “Rethinking Africa and Ourselves” trip to Ghana in December 2022, and he will be packing his bags this summer for the “Sweatt in Senegal Internship Experience.” As for the future ahead, the formerly reluctant world traveler is setting his sights on backpacking adventures in Spain and Greece.

“One thing that really stuck with me is that I could actually live abroad,” Gibson says. “Before these trips, I never would’ve even though this could be possible. Now, I believe this is something I could do. Looking at the NYU campus in the UAE really made me think about attending school and maybe even working there one day.”