Hello again! You will get to meet the last student from my blog series, Nia Walters. She is from Hackensack, New Jersey and is a Junior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Cognitive Science and Global Studies at Marist College. We met in a food culture class and got to bond over our cultural food experiences. Nia will share with you her love for traveling and learning about the world from a global perspective. Follow along to hear about her journey!
How does being African American impact your decision to study abroad?
“I think it personally makes it that much more significant because you don’t really hear a lot of stories of students of color going abroad. The percentage of students [who] study abroad is 10% or less in the United States, and for those who also get to do an internship is 1% or less. It makes it that much more significant to be a minority group and get to have this experience that normally wouldn’t be for other people in my race. I just feel that much more accomplishing. I’m doing something amazing and different and getting to go to the place I love.”
Was your decision challenging at all?
“No because my school has a Florence experience, so [my sister] did her whole freshman year in Italy. She was the first in my house to do that, so I felt inspired by that. I was like, ‘Oh, I want to go abroad, too! I want to do that for myself.’ It was new for our family, but it made me more excited and ready to do something like that myself. I didn’t feel like there were any challenges because I’d seen it done. I knew how the flow and the process would go.”
Why did you decide to study abroad?
“I’ve always wanted to leave the country. Even [when I was] younger, I loved London, I loved Paris. I loved just being in that environment, [and] the accents of course. As a little girl I was like, ‘Ohh the accents! I want to be there, too.’ As I grew older, their ideas around society and diversity, it’s so much different here than it is in America which made me want to study more and find out [more about] their cultures. I know America is obviously so much different from the UK, so I wanted to be there myself and really see all the things I’ve been hearing about my entire life.”
How has your identity shaped your study abroad experience? Has there been any highs or lows?
“I think in a sense, it might shock people if I’m American because they’re use to seeing actual Africans from the Caribbean or Afro-Caribbean. If they hear me talk, I don’t have that accent, so I’m an American. I think in that sense yeah, but personally I don’t think anyone has made an assumption [of who I am] that wasn’t wrong in a way. I think it was just like I am black, I’m African American. It hasn’t been challenging.”
How has your internship been?
“My internship’s been incredible. I absolutely love the people [who] I work with. My colleagues are amazing. The National Health Service (NHS), I work with one of their services; it’s One You Hounslow. Hounslow Central is the stop I go to, so it’s a diverse area. It’s really cool to work with people of different backgrounds. I work with people who are from Bangladesh, India, Africa, and who are native British, who are born here. It’s really cool to see how everyone works and how they all work together. I just love them; they’re amazing. I love my internship.”
What does your company do, and what do you get to do for them?
“We’re a service within the Hounslow and Richmond Community Centre which is an NHS service. What they do is, they’ll provide people with a better lifestyle and a way of living. We’ll promote eating healthy, moving more, smoking less, cutting down alcohol.
“We’ll talk with their general practitioners (GPs), and what their doctors will do is they’ll ask the patient, ‘Are you smoking by any chance? Do you drink a lot?’ If they notice [their patients] are overweight, they’ll be like, ‘Would you be interested in this service that we offer?’ If the person says yes, we don’t do it without their consent, the GP will refer them to us, and we’ll get that letter. The health advisors will do a follow-up call, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, well, we see that your GP says you are interested in this, is that correct?’ If they say yes, we’ll be like, ‘We see that you want to do the obesity program or the stop smoking program or whatever service.’ From there, [if they agree] then they get transferred to one of the specialists.
“There’s a stop smoking specialist, there’s the dietitians for the Cook and Eat sessions, there’s a lady [who] does all the exercises and health walks. Then, they’ll just keep following up and refer them to a clinic if they want to do a stop smoking service. They’ll refer them to a location to do exercise.
“It becomes a process. It goes down the line. What I do specifically is, I’ll help with the stop smoking specialist sometimes. Usually, I’ll help them a little bit more than the others because they’re the ones [who] have a lot of work to do. I’ll go to some of the clinics in the area, so we’ll go to West Thames College. We’ll get students, we’ll go to them and get them to try to stop smoking. We’ll give them carbon monoxide readings, we’ll take their basic detail information, and we’ll prescribe them with some NRTs or Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
“Other times, I’ll do blog write ups for the website. Sometimes, I’ll be doing follow-up phone calls to see how people are doing to see how far they’ve gotten, if they managed to stop. Sometimes, I’ll be doing the Cook and Eat sessions. I’ll be taking photos for them and helping them teach people how to cook healthier and faster meals. There’s so much which is why I love it so much. I’m always doing something new.”
What has been your favorite experience in London so far?
“Overall, I think just being here is so refreshing. I’ll go on my runs in Hyde Park, [I] take in the environment and look at all the people who live there. You just step outside of you in a sense, you look around, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m really here.’ It’s really nice, so I think the runs in Hyde Park you can say [is my favorite experience]. You get to step away from what you’re doing and just take in your surroundings and take in the atmosphere.”
What has it been like living in a flat?
“Living in a flat has been surprisingly really nice because you never know what to expect when you’re living in a house of eleven people [who] you never met before. Surprisingly, we get along really well because I’ve had roommates in the past where you fall off somewhere along the line, but I live with a great group of people who are so inclusive in every sense of the word. They always want to do things together. Sometimes, they’ll do things [with] two people at a time or three people at a time, or we’ll all do things together. They’re all great people. I’m glad that I live with them, and I’m glad that I met them. We do have our little falling outs here and there because that’s human, but it’s been really great.”
Would you recommend other students to study abroad?
“Oh, of course. Oh, of course, of course, of course. Even before coming here, I would say yes. Now that I’ve been here, double, triple yes!”
What has study abroad taught you?
“It’s taught me so much about taking a step away from thinking about ‘me, me, me.’ It’s just taught me to be aware of what’s around me, where I am, and how lucky I am to be in the position that I am because so much is going on all over the world. Traveling everywhere, you see the cultural differences, you see everything. It makes it that much better to be there. I think what it’s taught me is to just be more aware of where I am, be in the present, and just really appreciate everything that I have. Life is really short, anything could happen at any moment. It’s taught me to be more open, more aware of where I am, who I am.”
Is there anything you wish you knew about study abroad before coming here?
“I wish I would’ve known that buses weren’t so bad because there’s this idea around travel that you need to take a plane or else it’s going to be terrible. I feel like taking a bus adds more character to the experience, and you get more of a story out of that, like why not?
“The longest one I took was a ten-hour bus coming back from Belgium [when] it was only supposed to be eight. We were literally sitting at a stop for two hours before we actually crossed it to the underwater tunnel. Then, we had class that morning. We took an overnight bus, so we got back early Monday morning. We didn’t get back until 10:00am, and we had class at 2:00pm. To me, that’s a good time.”
What advice do you have for future students studying abroad?
“Get out of your comfort zone and experience something new even if you’re unsure or a little weary. It’s the best [way] to grow as a person. You get such a different perspective on who you are, on who other people are, on different cultural backgrounds, their culture, their politics, their religion. Everything, so I think to be more involved in the world around you. Be more understanding of life. I think it’s best to just study abroad. Life’s too short, just do it.”
Is there anything else you would like to mention about your study abroad experience that I haven’t asked about?
“I do want to mention to double, triple check the credits in the courses because sometimes it can get a little misunderstood or some things could be left out by the advisor, [especially at my school]. Just double, triple, quadruple check that everything is equivalent to courses at home.”
I hope Nia inspired you to step out of your comfort zone and to try something new, like studying abroad! Today’s challenge is to go against a societal norm. That could be anything as simple as walking instead of driving or as complex as speaking up against gender norms.
Many thanks for following along my Students of FIE series, and I hope that our stories have inspired you to explore the world. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to share your story.