With all of our trips on hold indefinitely, we wanted to check in with our partners from around the world. I asked some international friends of the program to send us reports. Here is Prosper from Cape Town: capeprosperous.com
All of our global trips are currently canceled as we monitor the international community’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. But while our trips may be on hold, our global education goes on. Watch Dr. Walker’s video below for more perspective.
RTF major Justice Beverley has been a star on several of our global trips, usually with a video camera in hand. Here is his latest recap video, from our 2019 trip to China. Enjoy!
On September 27th, 2019, the Office of Global Leadership within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement launched the inaugural Beyond Borders symposium, which highlighted the unique personal benefits and professional opportunities international education provides for Black and Brown students. The event started with an intimate fishbowl conversation, where students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds talked about their experiences “going back” to the homelands of their ancestors.
Next, symposium participants had the opportunity to choose breakout sessions that spoke to their specific interests. Breakout sessions included,
- Put It On Paper: Adding your study abroad experience to your resume.
- World Citizen? Race, Sex, and Travel
- FLI Around the World and Live to Tell Your Story.
- Modificado las normas tradicionales para optimizar nuestro potencial global: Strategies on Latino family communication.
Following the breakout sessions, there was a networking reception where undergraduate students who participated in DDCE’s Costa Rica program had the opportunity to do poster presentations on the servant leadership research projects they conducted while abroad.
All attendees came back together for the Globalization and Entrepreneurship panel which highlighted young entrepreneurs whose international experiences empowered them to launch businesses with a global outlook.
Our esteemed Keynote speaker, Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, followed the entrepreneurship panel with a powerful and lively retelling of her story. After her highly influential study abroad experience in Kenya, Dr. Gordon-Chipembere went on to earn her Ph.D. in South Africa in the midst of the downfall of the Apartheid regime. Her experiences ultimately led to her to Costa Rica where she is a professor and conducts research on Afro-descendant communities in Costa Rica.
After dinner catered by locally owned Black business, Lucille’s, students had the opportunity to tell their stories and experiences from abroad through spoken word, musical performances, and poetry at the 6th annual Diversity Abroad Showcase hosted by the talented Jarvis Dillard.
Overall, the event was a huge success and falls in line with DDCE’s vision of providing all students with access and exposure to global experiences.
Friday, September 27th @ 1pm – 7:00pm
Julius Glickman Conference Center 1:00 -5:15pm
Art Auditorium 5:30-7:00pm
Hosted by the Office of Global Leadership and Social Impact under the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement at The University of Texas At Austin, this symposium will highlight the unique personal and professional development outcomes of education abroad for Black and Brown students. Our goal is to inform and enrich students, staff, and faculty’ understanding of the intersection between international experiences and career readiness through critical reflection and structured engagements on topics such as identity, career development, global entrepreneurship and citizenry.
1:00 – Welcome – Dr. Devin Walker
1:10 – Heritage seeking but heritage found? – This intimate ‘fishbowl’ conversation will explore how traveling abroad to the region of one’s ancestors influences students racial and ethnic identities. Panelists: Orlando Ochoa, Rozahnea Charles, Marissa Martinez, Chase Moore, Che, Lucille Li
1:50 – Breakout Sessions
Session 1: Modificado las normas tradicionales para optimizar nuestro potencial global: Strategies on Latino family communication.
This workshop will explore challenges first-generation Latinx students often encounter when seeking international opportunities. Participants will leave with a better understanding of how to navigate familial traditions and discuss international travel with parents and guardians by focusing on the personal and professional development outcomes. Presented by Denise Morales.
Session 2: Put It On Paper: Adding your study abroad experience to your resume.
This session will highlight tips and strategies on how to leverage your study abroad experience to strengthen your resume and generate conversation for your interviews with employers. Presented by Dr. Darren Kelly.
Session 3: World Citizen? Race, Sex, and Travel
What roles do race, class, gender, and sexuality play in our understandings and experiences of travel and tourism? This session will examine the nuances of how and why people travel, the trials and benefits of being a host location or destination, and will interrogate the meeting point of tourist and local. It will explore what it means to be a socially responsible, culturally sensitive and generally savvy traveler. Presented by Dr. Traci Wint.
Session 4: FLI Around the World and Live to Tell Your Story.
This workshop will explore the art of storytelling. Learning how to effectively recount your stories from abroad is not only a great networking tool, it is an essential part of highlighting how your experience served to develop you personally and professionally. Presented by Thais Moore.
2:30 – Poster Presentations and Networking Break w/coffee, snacks, etc. Tabling for faculty-led study abroad programs in African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS), and Mexican and Latino Studies (MALS)
3:00 – Entrepreneurship and Internationalization Panel – Traveling abroad expands our understanding of what is possible. Come hear from young entrepreneurs whose international experiences provide them with the skillset and inspiration to run effective businesses. Charles Allen, Britney Turner, and Javier Wallace
3:40 – Keynote – Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere
Dr. Natasha Maria Gordon-Chipembere is of Afro-Costa Rican and Panamanian parentage and was born in New York. She graduated from Vassar College in 1992 with a BA in English, during which time she spent a semester abroad in Kenya (1991), which opened her to the world of international travel and intellectual study. She was then awarded a Fulbright Research award after graduation to the University of Nairobi, Kenya in 1992-1993. Upon returning to New York in 1993, she began an MA in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Read more on the bios page.
4:20 – Close – Dr. Walker
4:30 – Catered Dinner served at Glickman Conference Center
5:20 – Transition to Art Auditorium across the street
5:30 – 7:00 – Diversity Abroad Showcase in Art Auditorium
by Jordan T. Walters, African and African Diaspora Studies/History Junior
On three separate occasions we were told “mi casa es su casa” (my house is your house), or variations of it, by people who had never met us in their life. The various communities we have visited have taken us in as their own and invested in us a wealth of knowledge that we can now take back to our communities in the United States.
First, the community in Cahuita, which is predominantly composed of Afro-descendant Costa Ricans, embraced us in multiple ways. Enrique Joseph gave us a history of Cahuita and its transition from being a settlement predicated off the exploitation of nature to one focused on preserving nature. Kendall Cayasso explained to us that the youth in the area are taught at a young age to be aware of their footprint on the Earth and also stand firm for what they believe in. Laura Wilson discussed the intersectional experiences of Afro-descendant women in Costa Rica and ways we can be better allies.
Altogether, these three community leaders took time out of their day to inform us of the dynamics governing their community, and they made us feel even more comfortable with the people we would soon interact with.
Second, the Bribri indigenous community, near the border of Panama and Costa Rica, invited us to their dwellings in the forest for an experience we will never forget. Before starting with the day’s plans, they told us that their home was also our home. Immediately we felt like we were in good care with good people. While there, we learned about the variety of plants they use for medicines and beauty products, how to make chocolate (the real stuff), and some background information on the Bribri people. They even prepared food and drink for us, and while we ate we sat in a circle reflecting on what we had done throughout our time in the space. It was truly a moment where I felt connected to the nature surrounding us, the rest of my cohort, and other human beings who simply wanted to introduce us to their beautiful world.
Lastly, Dr. Umberto and the folks at the aquifer in Carrizal were immensely informative. They opened our eyes to the effects climate change has on the environment, but also to just how powerful a community working together can be. They told us about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their work. After that, we traveled through the jungle, up and down mountains, to witness the beauty of nature and their community water sources. From there, we had a snack and planted two trees named Epsy Nong Bumphus (after VP Epsy Campbell Barr, TA Nong Xiong, and Dr. Bumphus) and Big Javi Bebe (after TA Javier Wallace). After it was all said and done, one of the amazing members of the board of directors let us know that we were welcome to the community anytime.
Though these three communities were in vastly different places, they each left a huge impact on us. They inspired us to think more critically about how we use our natural resources, to think about our roles in our own communities, and how to bridge the gap between the two so that we can create spaces that are welcoming to others while maintaining the integrity and life around us.
by Jordan T. Walters, African and African Diaspora Studies/History Junior
One of the program’s guest lecturers, Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, discussed with us the history of Costa Rica, but more specifically the history of Afro-descendant Costa Ricans. She highlighted the 200-year-long institution of slavery that existed in Costa Rica that has been erased from many of the nation’s history books.
Dr. Chipembere started off by explaining the way European powers, like the Spanish, viewed Costa Rica. Christopher Columbus ignited the failed colonial project in Costa Rica and set in place the events that followed. Because Costa Rica was mostly inaccessible due to its terrain, intruders were met with hostility by indigenous communities, and there was no competitive cash crop, Costa Rica did not receive a large number of slaves.
After going over the development of Costa Rica during its inclusion within the Kingdom of Guatemala, the area’s Spanish administrative division, the lecturer talked about Costa Rica’s independence and present-day status, as well as Afro-descendant identity in Costa Rica.
Dr. Chipembere explained how the concept of tico/tica emerged as a means of creating a national identity, but she also mentioned that many Afro-descendant people do not feel necessarily connected to that colorblind term. We looked at where many Afro-descendant Costa Ricans lived, a place known as Limon, and how their isolation in that region of the nation birthed an almost completely separate identity from tico/tica.
Similar to how Black communities in the United States are labeled, the Afro-descendant community of Limon is considered by many in other parts of Costa Rica to be a poor community full of crime and disobedience. For that reason, many Costa Ricans residing in places like San Jose do not visit the Caribbean coast, but rather opt for the beaches along the Pacific coast.
Despite discussions on the rather dehumanizing treatment of Afro-descendant Costa Rican’s, Dr. Chipembere reminded us of how powerful, resilient, and influential the Afro-descendant community is. Two examples include the economic importance of Limon as a port through which a majority of the nation’s imports/exports go through and La Negrita, which is Costa Rica’s patron saint, who is a Black woman.
Beyond the amazing lecture that left our cohort feeling much more aware of the dynamics governing Costa Rican society, Dr. Gordon-Chipembere exemplifies an ethical and socially responsible leader that we can all aspire to. She uses her passion for history, in addition to her lineage, to disrupt false narratives and highlight the experiences of oppressed communities. This, in turn, holds those around her accountable for how they articulate the histories of Costa Rica. Instead of causing further harm to Afro-descendant communities, she responsibly tells and honors their stories.
As we continue to sharpen our skills as leaders while on this study abroad trip we will keep in mind the standards set by Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipemebere.
Dr. Walker’s comments were prominently featured recently in this Daily Texan article entitled Men at UT need to realize the value in studying abroad, re-posted below.
The gender gap between women and men studying abroad is staggering, as men are widely unrepresented in the statistics. Quite frankly, it’s time for men to pack their bags and follow the precedent set by women. In order to inspire change, study abroad coordinators must begin to pitch these opportunities to men by emphasizing the potential for financial gains through the skills acquired abroad.
Over the course of the 2015–2016 academic school year, 3,763 UT students studied abroad, but only 41 percent were men. Nationally, only 32.7 percent of United States study abroad students during the 2016–2017 year were men, meaning an astonishing 67.3 percent were women.
“Men are more afraid to fail,” said Devin Walker, director of global leadership for UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. “They’re not as comfortable being uncomfortable — studying abroad takes you out of your comfort zone and it takes control away from you.”
Speaking from my own observations, men can be opposed to trying new things, and typically are very career driven and traditional. Men will continue to remotely consider studying abroad unless they are enlightened on the potential cash benefits of this opportunity.
“We (as men) don’t prioritize study abroad as an economic achievement,” said Brandon Pegram, an acting junior who has traveled abroad to both Beijing, China and Cape Town, South Africa. “(Men) don’t talk about how studying abroad can progress careers and opportunities. (Men) look at it as just a trip.” To say the least, men have adopted a conventional perception on traveling abroad.
While women attend colleges at a higher rate than men do worldwide, undoubtedly contributing to the significant gap between men and women studying abroad, there may also be some underlying factors at play.
“A lot of the women I know are more motivated than the men that I know,” said biochemistry junior Brandon Okeke, who has also studied abroad in Beijing, China. “Women work together on their goals, whereas men work on their own or won’t talk about what they’re working on.”
Additionally, Walker highlights, “women have to seek out more opportunities because we live in an inequitable and sexist environment.”
I second this stance wholeheartedly — women tend to be more opportunistic and open-minded than men, and this is demonstrated by their willingness to study abroad.
“Part of it is a deficiency amongst men, but part of it is also a positive amongst women due to women being more assertive in going after (what they want),” said Walker.
Men specifically need to adopt this open-minded mentality.
Unquestionably, though, in addition to adjusting their perspective, finances are another pivotal factor in why men are not traveling abroad — but not so much in terms of paying for the trip itself. Right now, universities are taking the wrong approach when pitching study abroad to men specifically.
In order to get more men to study abroad, international offices must shift the conversation to long-term financial gain. They must emphasize how traveling abroad can increase annual salaries through the skills developed as a result of being out of your comfort zone.
No longer can we approach men with dialogue regarding life-changing experiences.
Men are money-driven to a fault, and if the potential for money down the line is not communicated, men will continue to be less represented on study abroad trips. Study abroad opportunities must be marketed to men differently.
“Men don’t apply because they don’t see the value in gaining cultural knowledge, because in most male’s minds that doesn’t make money or dollars,” Pegram said.
You’ve heard it before — if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.
West Jr. is a journalism sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Travel Noire recently wrote a post featuring our 100 Passport Giveaway: New Study Abroad Initiative Helps Middle School Students Explore The World. Sharelle Burt writes:
The initiative is designed to develop students into leaders by learning real-world skills like cultural proficiency, entrepreneurship, civic leadership, teambuilding, and global citizenship. During the school year, Dr. Walker hopes to continue educating middle schoolers on the importance of traveling abroad and most importantly, building leadership and character skills.
Read more at travelnoire.com.