On Becoming an Expat

In the 7th article in our new series exploring  views on Europe from women living elsewhere, academic and free thinker Cherise Charleswell explain why she is destined to become an expat.

I always had a great deal of curiosity about other cultures and people. One of my favorite and most prized Christmas gift was a globe that my mother gave me. I was so excited as I would spin the globe, close my eyes, and place my finger against it. Whenever the globe stopped, I would make a note of where my finger was located, and would rush off to do a little research about this place that I was “destined” to travel to.

Fast forward a number of years later, and I am realizing that my inquisitive nature, education and degree in cultural anthropology, love of geography, architecture, and nature, penchant for memorizing world history facts, fascination with current events world politics, and highly liberal, socialist, progressive socio-political views; is making it impossible for me to continue living in the United States. America has a sordid racial history, and it is far from being Post Racial. The election of President Barack Obama actually amplified and made this country’s deep seated racism more visible. Despite having a white mother, President Obama has been viewed and treated as “The Other”; and thus subjected to racial stereotypes, prejudice, threats, and unfair treatment.

In this supposedly Post Racial America, the world has bear witness to the unjust race-based murders of African Americans:

  • Oscar Grant
  • Trayvon Martin
  • Renisha Mc Bride
  • Rekia Boyd
  • Mike Brown
  • John Crawford

And this list unfortunately goes on-and-on……

And while we are on the topic of murder, let me state that I am truly disgusted and annoyed by the American gun culture, and reports of yet another school shooting. The basic problem with Gun Rights in this country is the constant and erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Concealed Carry laws are especially ridiculous. Apparently we need to make it easy and legal for men who have a need to prove their manhood (and possibly compensate for their diminutive penis) to carry weapons into bars, stores, and wherever they please.

Then there are the following (In no particular order):

  • Healthcare costs, premiums, and lack of a national universal healthcare system
  • Those Gun Nuts and Gun lobby (NRA)
  • Race-based industrial prison complex (Black girls have the highest rates of incarceration)
  • Skyrocketing tuition and student loans
  • Citizens United and the monied influence in American politics
  • The ineffective two-party system of government
  • The laughable bias, and horrible news media

Let me just stop here, as I really have too many points to mention.
Essentially, I know that I want to leave, but the problem is deciding — where to?

There seems to be so many factors involved in making this decision:

  • The possible language barrier and having to learn a new one fast!
  • Race relations
  • Cost of living
  • Job opportunities
  • And of course frivolous things — like how easy will it be for me to find hair products for my natural afro-textured kinky-curly hair, or will I be able to find restaurants and markets that have vegetarian food options?

I have told myself that I have to write a formal Exit Strategy and begin the initial steps towards emigration. When I travel abroad, I try to engage the locals as much as possible to learn more about their country or city. It is as if I am taking mental notes, and sometimes I actually take physical notes. I do the same when I frequent social media groups, blogs, and websites for expats or those who share my love of travel.

This commitment to research certainly pays off. By the time that I travel to a foreign city, I already know what to expect, how I may be received, what I should see and experience, what I should avoid, what are the tourist traps, and of course what foods I should sample; as well as that the men in that city may be like (apparently some things are not a myth or a stereotype).

After stepping off of the plane for a long layover in Rome, I was immediately approached by a gentleman as soon as I entered the terminal. Despite his very limited English, he began to try to make conversation, started trailing me, and began exclaiming bellissima! Before visiting Athens, my Greek friends felt the need to warn me about the great deal of attention that I would get from Greek men, and they were correct! I was approached on numerous occasions or just was stared at. Men would turn completely around while dining at cafes, as I walked by, and some would slow their vehicles to gaze. However, not once did I experience what is known as street harassment. The men were not vulgar, and those who approached me, did so in a respectful manner, inquiring about my name, where I was from, would I accept a drink, would I like to join them at their table, how long would I be staying, and so on. One overzealous and quite handsome restaurant owner on the Greek island of Santorini, provided me with a complimentary meal and a number of drinks. It was unfortunately my last night on the island, and I had plans to meet up with a friend at a nightclub.

While awaiting an outgoing flight on Liat airlines at St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International airport, I struck up a conversation with a pair of Dutch men who were on an extended holiday, and were visiting numerous Caribbean islands. They were witty, funny, and flirtatious, and shared information with me about The Netherlands having large expat communities. Thus, they peaked my current interest in visiting The Netherlands, a nation where many of the residents enjoy a favorable or high standard of living and this includes the fact that crime is so low that the country has been closing prisons .

There have been other trips, experiences, and conversations that have renewed my desire to emigrate. I will continue to travel as I work out my strategic Exit Plan, and of course, I welcome any tips along the way!

Cherise Charelswell

Cherise Charleswell is a self-proclaimed Wombanist and reluctant “academic”, who is also a self -and- internationally published author and writer, activist scholar, radio show host and producer, as well as a model; who openly and actively pursues these various interests and endeavors due to her refusal to be placed “in a box” or limited by societal labels. She is a Biocultural anthropologist and public health practitioner. Cherise is of West Indian descent, with heritage from numerous Caribbean islands, such as St Thomas, St John, Puerto Rico, Tortola, St Kitts, and Anguilla. She is the host of Wombanist Views, a radio program that focuses on women of color, and is currently working on the book projects: The Link Between Food, Culture, & Health Inequities in the African Diaspora” and “Walking in the Feminine: A Stepping into Our Shoes Anthology”.

 

How to become a Black Woman In Europe…my journey by Destiny Gordon

In a new series of articles black women share their stories on Europe. In the 6th article in this series  Destiny Gordon chronicles her destiny to live in Europe.

So, how does one become a black women in Europe?  That is a good question, and one I have been searching to find an answer for.  I know you’re probably saying “thanks for nothing”, but it was only recently that the path leading to my answer came together.  I’m a single woman..no, a young lady with no children and like most people I want to live not just exist.

A former college drop out, before Kanye made the term popular.  I recently decided to go back to school and get a degree.  I graduated and now I’m pursuing another degree to establish a career in Public Relations and/or Market Research and in the midst of this I realized that I don’t want to remain in the United States.  Therefore, being the natural researcher that I’am, I decided to start finding out more about the international market and making it known to anyone that would listen that I wanted to live and work in another country.

The first person I expressed my interest to was my Public Relations professor, who was a sweet woman from a small town.  She had been in the business for several years and had even got offered a position in New York paying her six figures!  However, she decided to do the right thing, like caring about being with her family and tucking her kids in at night  (I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing).  Needless to say, she turned the position down and because her husband had a job transfer, she decided to take the position she has now as the Public Relations professor at the university I attend.  She was very insightful on the different positions one could take under the Public Relations umbrella.  One of those areas was “international relations”.  This immediately peaked my interest since I had been learning languages via “duolingo” (don’t judge me) and knew that this was something I wanted to do and take to the next level.  She had given us endless resources and named many of the top agencies in the business.  At the end of the semester as our final project, we had to research three areas within the industry that we had an interest in.  It was her way of us learning whether or not this was something we wanted to continue to study.  Of course one of my three areas was international relations.

While doing my research, I learned that several of the top companies had offices all over the world.  Also, almost all of them had some kind of office or internship program in London, (I will get to why that is later).  Knowing this and discovering that in some international markets, a foreigner (that would be us Americans) is more sought after because we have an outside voice.  We can become an asset, because we can help these companies appeal to the American market.  Well, you know that made the desire to go the international route all the more enticing; and one of the ways I found to get my foot in the door knowing my current situation is INTERNSHIPS.  I’m talking programs out there that get you international work and experience and you don’t have to necessarily be enrolled in school.  Did anybody else know this?  I know I didn’t, but anyway, this is my stop so I got to go.  I’ll have to tell you the rest of my story later when you get back on the bus.

Same place, same time? ….The journey begins.

Destiny Gordon

 

Destiny Gordon is a communications professional/writer, with background experience in the banking industry.  Her written work was featured in an online magazine for the History club at her former college.  Also, her work made an impression on her writing teacher so much, that the teacher told her she was scared to be too critical of Destiny’s work in fear that she would “cause her to change her writing style.”

She obtained her Associates degree in Communications at Delaware County Community College. While a student at Delaware County, she was placed on the Dean’s list.  She is currently attending Temple University as a Strategic Communications major with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Business.  She holds a 3.22 GPA and is expected to graduate in the summer of 2015.

She is also a member of PRSSA, the Public Relations Student Society of America and recently signed on to the schools newsletter committee.

Destiny Gordon currently resides in Delaware.

 

 

 

 

Shaniqua Farrior – Antwerp…what is yet to come.

In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our third article, Shaniqua Farrior lays out her plan to move to Belgium and why. 

I have always been an adventurer. Often time taking on challenges that sometime seem  insurmountable. But, as all adventurers know, the journey will be filled with moments of euphoria, while other times it will be a discouraging struggle just to get to the next step. But we also know the reward of meeting the challenge with the strength and ferocity of a lion makes it all worth it.

Because, I’m never one to shy a from a challenge, I decided to accept the opportunity  to share  my goal to relocate to Antwerp, Belgium. What makes this goal rather different,  a bit intimidating and so worth it, is  I’m attempting to accomplish  this  as a young, black single mother of two.

For years I’d been entertaining the idea of permanently relocating to Europe but didn’t really know where. I know that I want to live in a lively city, that has a multicultural atmosphere and to dwell in a society that is forward thinking and value its inhabitants. I also know that I want to be surrounded by fashion, art and delicious food. As well as live in a  thriving community of progressive  entrepreneurs who are offering innovative goods to consumers.

Day after day I engross  myself in online research of  European countries that spark my interest. Visiting government websites gathering information on visas, work permit laws, permanent residency laws, marriage laws etc etc.; I scour websites and forums seeking information on job opportunities, housing, demographics, schools for my daughter and son, age appropriate activities that they may be interested in, the best neighborhoods,  race relations and articles on expatriation with children.

But online research can only provide so much.

From 2004 – 2006 I visited several countries on my list:

Although I’d  lived  in Denmark in the mid 90’s as a student attending the International People’s College, and then revisiting in ’06, the lovely fjord  just didn’t feel right for the long term, even though I have friends who are almost like family that still live there. Plus,  my ex fiancé still resides in Copenhagen and his family resides in Aarhus and the thought of dwelling in the same country and perhaps the same city and possibly running into him is just too emotionally taxing. Next!

Amsterdam reminded me a lot of New York, for obvious reasons. But the atmosphere of separatism, and racism was uncomfortably palpable; ESPECIALLY during the month of November, when St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas in dutch)  the patron saint of  children and sailors, and his band of mischievous helpers in black face – think sambo – known as the Zweite Pete’s roll into town. I also had the double  misfortune of  being called the N-word, while strolling along the leidseplein on a Saturday night. One gentleman even asked for directions to Nigeria, before simulating punching me in the face. * Feel free to gasp here* . The upside…the Heineken was out of this world. But I was happy to leave and never come back.

France is beautiful but too expensive. However, it is a real asset to the industry i’m in. Germany is crazy fun. But I still felt there was a county and a city better suited for me.

ENCOUNTERING A SINJOREN….

Fast forward to 2007, while sitting in the Hong Kong Airport engrossed in the story of Cupcake Brown, a Tyler Perryesq book on steroids, a young…very young backpacker sat down next to me determined to strike up conversation. After resisting for about an hour I finally relented. Surprisingly his conversation was very engaging. We chatted  for hours ( our flights weren’t departing until the next morning) while gazing upon the neon lit skyline that Hong Kong is famous for.

We talked about my work as a massage therapist, my children, and life back in New York. He shared stories about his life in his beloved town of Antwerp, Belgium. He told me how much he loved his hometown. How nice the people are. How relaxed and friendly the atmosphere was and how I would fit right in. He talked about the opportunities available there and how it was the diamond capital of the world. Once he said that, I was intrigued.

Later that year my backpacker friend invited me to visit him for a few days in Antwerp. I accepted his offer and am so happy I did

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

The moment I arrived by train into the seaside city, I was greeted by the architectural wonders of the  Antwerpen Centraal railway station with its 144 ft dome constructed of steel and glass. The natural light that floods through, gives the station a very ethereal feel. I don’t know if it was the vitamin D from all the sunlight in the station, but a strange sensation of belonging and calm washed over me, that let me know that I had found what I was looking for. My feelings were confirmed every moment of the 10 days I spent there.

Traveling on public transportation, shopping in the local grocery stores with the backpacker. Discovering interesting boutiques along the Meir – the main shopping street in the heart of the city – and feeling like I blended in with the locals, gave me the confidence to know I wanted to write a chapter of my life there with my babies.

What also made the trip significant, was the fact that I created and facilitated the first infant massage seminar for expatriates. For 3 days I was able to visit homes of people who were in the position I want to be in. Many of them gave me great advice regarding raising my children there. Such as it is better to place the children in a local school versus a private school, this will ensure the children will be immersed in the dutch language. It was also said that patients will be a virtue when dealing with  the snail paced bureaucracy that is in charge of processing visas and reviewing permanent resident applications.

HAVE A PLAN

The expats that attended the infant massage seminar, stressed the importance of having multiple plans especially when traveling and moving overseas with children… I was advised to:

  •  Start the process at least one year or more

○       Learning the language

○       Gathering documents

○       Securing health insurance

○       Making sure finances are secure

○       Preparing the children for the move (which I heard is more difficult on teenagers)

○       Have an emergency fund just in case we have to fly back to the states on short notice. i.e death of a loved one. As well as life insurance.

○       Copies of all of our medical records, shot records, prescriptions ect.

Having  a few solid plans will give us the confidence in knowing we are prepared to face any obstacle.

So far we are just at the beginning stages of our relocation process. I am planning a 3 month stay next summer which will serve multiple purposes :

  1. I want my children to experience Antwerp and formulate their own opinion about it. As well as create a network of friends that will help familiarize them with the country.
  2. To explore neighborhoods that will best suit my small yet lively family.
  3. Visit schools both private and local to gain insight on how best to assimilate my children into the Belgian educational system. And if there will be any drawbacks that I can help to thwart.
  4. Networking with members of my profession who are veterans of the massage and skincare industry who will be asset  when  securing a work permit.
  5. To connect with other BWIE members in person who may give me better insight regarding black life in Europe.

In conclusion I want this article to serve as an inspiration to other single mothers that may have a desire to travel with their children, but felt afraid to do so. I know it seems impossible but through faith, perseverance and preparation there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.

Shaniqua Farrior
Shaniqua Farrior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaniqua Farrior is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Paramedical Skincare Therapist who is considered an expert in her field.  She holds a Degree in Liberal Arts from NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She is also a Certified Educator of Infant Massage, and an avid traveler, mother and world citizen. 

In our next article Destiny Gordon chronicles her destiny to live in Europe.

DeVon Thompson – Music, Memories and Moving ahead

In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our fourth article, DeVon Thompson discovered that music build bridges. 

London
Photo: DeVon Thompson

Europe looms big!

Paris
Photo: DeVon Thompson

That may sound strange coming from a black American woman but when you say the phrase ‘I’ve been to Europe people’s eyes light up, there is usually a pause followed by a ‘wow!’ or ‘you have!?’ The amount of Americans holding passports is low and even lower for black Americans. We know what Buckingham Palace looks like, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized manmade structures in the world but despite many black Americans especially those my age (I’m an early 80’s baby) growing up with the sounds of Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, Incognito, Les Nubians and of course everyone knows ‘Return of the Mack’, the continent of Europe might as well be Mars for most.

Germany
Photo: DeVon Thompson

I know Europe as a tourist, first in 2008 and just recently earlier this year in 2013. I grew up near a military base and had a friend who grew up in Germany as a pen pal; Europe wasn’t new to me when I landed at Frankfurt International Airport in 2008, although I was overly excited because like many I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Things changed when I landed at Heathrow this year, it was much more comfortable. I have a music focused blog and the ideas started to swirl while in Heidelberg, Germany on my first trip, I knew I had to reach out beyond my borders and found many of my associates were based in Europe. On my first trip and my most recent trip, I took note of the music scenes, the impact of American hip hop culture specifically. I felt that there was an energy that just wasn’t present in the U.S. I had the chance to visit Paris on my first European trip and I felt that Paris displayed just as much hip hop culture as you would see in New York City. Music was a way to connect with other black women in Europe some of whom are associates as well as those I met while visiting and I’ve learned that sharing the same culture interest transcends race even though we were all black women interacting. However the interest of music and hip hop was just a part of our initial meeting and conversations went deeper into racism, sexism and overall cultural differences.

DeVon Thompson
DeVon Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

DeVon Thompson is a writer and event producer. She currently publishes the website creativebeach.net, a website that focuses on music, travel and film. She has been writing online since 2008 and interviewed artists such as the Nigerian artist Nneka and UK MC Kano. DeVon has also written for several blogs and websites some of which include thecouchsessions.com and soulculture.co.uk. DeVon has also been featured on the London based creative culture site iamthenublack.com.

Next month Shaniqua Farrior lays out her plan to move to Antwerp.

The Dating Truth for Black Women – Go to Europe and Don’t Look Back

In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our third article, Betty Byte (not her real name) spells out why she is determined to live in Europe. 

A benediction that was given to me a long ago from a beautiful, elegant black female co-worker of mine at my first job post college. She said overseas I would be showered with more male attention that I’d ever know what to do with and that if I stayed enough, I’d be married. My lovely friend is a jazz singer when she wasn’t working in the states as an office manager. She was married to a French West African man and had lived in Paris for three years. She told me this as we sat together sipping our lattes in Starbucks. I smiled and told her that I knew what she was talking about and how I had always planned to go to Europe with friends, but it never manifested.

Years later after Starbuck’s cafe chat, I sat alone struggling with rampant dating dry spells. I thought, what in the hell could I do to change this man less void I was trapped in?! I had done every damn thing in the book to find a mate. I had put up countless unanswered web ads (hello Ok Stupid!), went to Meet Ups, worked out like a demon, upgraded my appearance, signed up for speed dating parties, met with expensive dating coaches and memorized all current dating books. I did all that footwork and yet my phone only rang from my usual suspects – my mom, siblings, bill collectors and my job. Ahem and my ‘crew’ of 7 women friends had shrunk due to matrimony and moving away to 2 gals who were ‘in it’ with dudes so no calls from any of them. There comes a time in a single ladies’ life when you come to the Zen realization that you are very solo and trapped a negative dating space – even if that place is grand ol’ New York City. Thousands of women of various races, ethnicities and ages lament that the New York City is not the perfect spot for romance let alone marriage to bloom. This fact would make things doubly hard for black women, because if other folks are catching a cold, we get the Black Death.

I bought my first ticket to Europe after my boss joked if I ever planned to use my vacation days. You see, my job is my constant companion. Work had become the only ‘husband’ I had come to know since leaving college. My job was a selfish lover who didn’t care that I was lonely and ate most meals alone. So right after my boss went back to her office chuckling, I went to my desk and started looking for flights. I’m very embarrassed to say that I didn’t know anything about flights to Europe, airports, airplane security measures etc. The only thing I did have was a passport. It took me about a week to work out the details. I informed my now surprised boss, that I’d be taking a two week vacation in the coming month. I decided to Paris to visit an old boyfriend then London to hang out with an English buddy who had gone back to grad school in England.

Paris was challenging. I got lost every single day (even with Google maps!) and my French skills were poor so I could barely read street signs or communicate with anyone. I was terrified and baffled with my head buried in my travel guides. Although I remained panic stricken, I noticed I was often assisted by men, loads of them. When I told them “Je suis Americane. Je ne parle pas francias”, those French dudes (white and black) just pushed that fact aside and started talking English and found American accent enticing. While I stayed in Paris, I was hit on con-stant-ly. So much so that my, non PDA ex boyfriend was leaving work early to accompany me around town while holding my hand. I was still loyal (damning trait with most black women) so I paid little attention to the guys who were trying to wrestle me away from my ex there. The second eye opening event that happened to me while in Paris was witnessing all types of black women–the doe eyed schoolgirls, ones with children, those of a certain age, fashion divas, the ‘not so great looking’ etc. with partners. As a forever singleton, I make mental note of the black women that I pass that are with a significant others on any street. The number of black women paired up with various men was staggering.

Right on the heels of my Parisian visit, I took the Eurostar to London. I nearly fainted when I got to the border security for England. I was delighted to hear everyone speaking English even if they were riding my nerves questioning my travel details. My first time in London was wonderful. I shopped like a fiend at Primark, ate Jamaican food in Brixton and learned the global importance of football (Soccer as the Americans like to call it). I loved riding the pricey tube through the zones of London even if it did shut down at midnight. I made getting around a breeze. Once I got past my tourist activities (that took a mere 48 hours) I got right back man hunting mode. I hit the bars and lounges in the West End in my pretty yet painful Kurt Gieger heels. In London, I was insanely popular with the Italian, Spanish and Irish (Straight out of Cork/Dublin – not the States) fellas. I also took up online dating in London, it proved to be an efficient way of meeting England’s overly polite bachelors. The quality and looks of the men who responded to me was astounding. I have gotten thousands of views, hits and messages on my ads on various London dating sites. I had abandoned the practice in the States. I just ‘can’t’ with men online in New York City. It’s a joke.

In London, I saw the same thing I did in Paris, tons of black women with all types of men as partners. I remember seeing an advert of a couple getting ready for an evening out. It showed a montage of a black woman and white male prepping for their date together. The last scene was of the woman opening her door wearing a lovely evening dress while the spruce bachelor brought roses to his date. I stood with my mouth gaping wide open in Victoria station. People glared at me and tripped over my excess baggage while I watched the ad for about 30 minutes. I had stood in Grand Central station many times in my life and never seen an ad like this one.

Without saying, I keep going back to Europe making going back home to the States as painful as a root canal. Simply put my love life in Europe is exactly like what my soothsayer co-worker told me it would be. I’m exhausted of waiting for things to pop off here. I’ll become a mummy (not the child producing kind) if I stay in the States.

I’m hell bent on moving to Europe. Each year I keep focusing my efforts on finding ways to stay permanently.

I’ve learned many life lessons from my journeys abroad. Lesson 1 – Do not wait or depend on adult women friends to do big things with your life. If you want something, make it happen yourself. Lesson 2 – Learn a language. It will help your career and widen social/romantic opportunities. Lesson 3 – Do not ignore the hard truth about time – You do not have forever. Lesson 4 – Life is not meant to be lived alone. Do want you need to find a partner or a husband. You deserve a mate.

Now some folks are going to have words with what I’ve described. With daggers in teeth, they will be growling that there are hordes of spouse less black women in London/ Paris or that black women’s dating lives will not be enriched if they decide to live there. Please do not listen to these trolls because it is simply not true. Yes there are dating choices for black women in the states but our numbers are overwhelming – it much better for black women to ‘Hunger Games’ their dating game and head to places where your ‘odds are forever in your favor’. I’m not waiting for the dating supernova to happen to black women. I’m leaving and going to Europe.

My love don’t live here anymore. Actually, it never has.

Soon to be expat in the way of James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Janet Jackson and Tina Turner,

Betty Byte is a New York City writer, bedroom dj and frequent flyer on Virgin International Airlines.

Next month DeVon Thompson explains how music crosses cultures.

Nicole Trots the Globe, next stop Germany!

In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our second article, Nicole Brewer recounts her time teaching abroad. 

I have been very fortunate to live out one of my favorite passions over the past several years, which is travel.  I’ve lived in South Korea for over 3 years teaching English as a Second Language to students from elementary to high school age. After having a great time in Korea I decided I was ready for a new challenge thus applying for teaching opportunities in the Middle East.  I was blessed to be offered an English Lecturer position at a small college in Oman. Teaching abroad has afforded me excellent opportunities to trot the globe!

London Olympics
London Olympics. Photo credit: iluv2globetrot.com

Last summer I visited Europe for the first time during my summer vacation from teaching in Busan, South Korea.  I had such an amazing time while visiting London during the 2012 Olympics. Europe was

London Olympics. Photo credit: iluv2globetrot.com

one of my dream destinations for quite some time.  I spent months planning the ultimate European escape to visit London, Amsterdam, Belgium and Italy.  While in Italy I was overcome with emotions my last night there while sitting outside of a gorgeous Catholic church and hearing the choir sing so

Cooking classes in Rome.
Cooking classes in Rome. Photo credit: iluv2globetrot.com

beautifully.  I was able to take an Italian cooking class in Rome which was one of my fondest memories while there. It was absolutely exhilarating being immersed in the culture through food with other expats!

Food from cooking class in Rome.
Food from cooking class in Rome. Photo credit: iluv2globetrot.com

 

After teaching abroad for some time I decided that expat life is the life for me. I decided that ESL life had been great but wanted to know how else I could give back to society while still affording the lifestyle abroad that I became accustomed to.  Therefore, after a bit of research I came across the Erasmus Mundus network of graduate programs where both European students and expats alike could apply for opportunities throughout their network of programs.

I competed for a full ride scholarship in the max of 3 programs one can apply for and while not winning the full ride was offered a spot in NOHA Network on Humanitarian Action joint masters program in Germany! I’m excited to be given an opportunity to study in Europe and thus network with amazing NGO directors, students and professors in such a great location.  I know it will be hard work being a full time student in a foreign land, working part time and still following my travel writing passions. Nevertheless, anything worth having is worth the time and dedication one has to put in!

Nicole Brewer
Nicole Brewer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Brewer is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a BA in Communications. She has trotted the globe as an expat for the past 4 years living in South Korea and currently in the Middle East in Oman.  Nicole has plans in the future to start a NGO geared toward fostering relationships with youth so they too can become inspired to trot the globe. She will be moving to Germany in September to start her graduate studies in International Humanitarian action as a participant of the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) joint Masters program.  Feel free to visit her blog at www.iluv2globetrot.com and follow on twitter @iluv2globetrot.

Next month Betty Byte lays out why is Europe for her forever.

 

Study Abroad Is Life Enriching!

In a new series of articles, black women living outside of Europe share their views from the other side. In our first article, Lorraine Spencer recalls her studies abroad. 

In 1981, many of you were not even born.  But I was 16 years old about to embark upon a sojourn as a summer exchange in what was then West Germany.  I was only one of 5 black exchange students in the entire state of Indiana with the Youth For Understanding program.  I had completed a short program in Saltillo, Coahuila Mexico the previous summer speaking Spanish.  Now I was looking forward to speaking some Deutsch.

I had known about the trip months ahead of time but there was suddenly a strike that threatened my trip.  The Air Traffic Controllers were grumbling and YFU sent out a letter to the students that our exchanges could be affected.  I didn’t understand fully what was going on, but President Reagan squashed it and the trip was back on.  So the time came and off I went to Germany.

I survived my first plane ride only to get to West Germany and get lost on the train.  I did not get off at Rosenheim where my host family was waiting for me.  That stop was actually the last stop in Germany so I went straight through to Salzburg, Austria.  I felt too much time had passed so I asked someone.  Then I got the news.  I didn’t panic, after all what go would calling my mother thousands of miles away do?  I just got off at Salzburg, bought a return ticket and waited.  I didn’t have to wait too long.  My host family drove over to get me.  I wasn’t that hard to find.  That was my first of many adventures.

I spent time in Bayern but most of my time was with a family in Saarland.  I also had the opportunity to visit Denmark twice, Austria another time on a family trip, and France.  I had a grand time in Germany making friends with whom I still keep in touch.  One of my good friends told me that I always had something going on with me when I was there.  She said, “Met dir war etwas immer loss.”  I was a little diva, spoiled brat I admit, looking back I would not change much at all.  Culture shock, language barriers and personalities aside, they loved me.  Who would have known that all these years later I still reflect on the enriching experience I had?  I have passed this international travel bug to my own daughter who wishes to go to Japan.

Sadly, not many black Americans take advantage of opportunities to travel abroad.  By far there are many more black women (and people in general) going abroad now more than ever, but a simple unscientific poll will reveal that the number still remains low.  I will always advocate for young black women and girls to study or travel internationally.  It may open up a world of opportunities.  I look at members of my own extended family who cannot imagine leaving their own states let along traveling abroad for anything. Still for those who have the bug, longing, desire, inhibitions, etc., they will find a way to get to where they want to go and be richer for the experience.

Here are just a few of the myriad of exchange programs for high school and college students to explore.  A little research may uncover high school, university, religious and volunteer exchange abroad programs.  You may also consider hosting a foreign student.  My family hosted a student from Germany in our home when I returned.

Youth For Understanding

http://www.yfu.org/

American Field Service

http://www.afs.org/

Rotary International

http://www.rotary.org/

International Student Exchange Programs

http://www.isep.org/

Lorraine Spencer
Lorraine Spencer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Spencer is a relationship coach and is the founder of Swirling and Marriage™.  Although she writes for several genres, Lorraine loves children’s books and is in her element writing poems and adventures for children.  She holds an M.S. in Human Resources Management and Development from National Louis University (1997) a B.S. in Western Language and Literature from Excelsior College (1993) an A.A degree from the University of Alaska (1991).

When not coaching, writing or doing research, Mrs. Spencer spends time with her husband Joe, and children Elijah and Charlotte who served as her inspiration.

Next month Nicole Brewer recounts her experiences teaching abroad.