Spring is arguably the most popular time to travel abroad. Planning a trip can be stressful- from finding plane tickets, to going to information sessions, to saving months worth of money. However, students of color have an extra thing to worry about. They must ask themselves whether they will experience racism in the place they choose and if they will be safe there. Destinations that other students flock to might not be the best choice for them for this very reason. This is a perspective we often don’t hear, so I decided to interview a student I know who had to ask themselves these questions before studying abroad over winter break.
Destination: Cape Town, South Africa
Question: Was this your first international trip? How were you feeling beforehand?
Answer: Yes this was my first international trip. I was feeling nervous, anxious, and excited. I felt a lot of different emotions going into it. This was amplified due to COVID and how it has complicated travel. A lot of flights were canceled while I was planning the trip, increasing feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
Question: Were there any other students of color on the trip?
Answer: Yes there were other students of color. It was nice because I had people to talk to that I could relate to and it made me feel more comfortable. When we discussed topics like Apartheid in class, it was nice to have people to talk to about our feelings after.
Question: Did you experience any unwanted attention?
Answer: I did experience a bit of unwanted attention. There were not a lot of other Asian people in Cape Town. In my experience, people made the assumption that I could not speak English and were surprised when I did.
Question: Did you feel safe?
Answer: Yes, I did feel safe. The housing accommodations were very good. There was ample staff and they were very friendly and helpful.
Question: What is your favorite memory from the trip?
Answer: My favorite memory is visiting the District 6 Museum. This museum is about an area in Cape Town where people of color were forcibly removed from their houses. It was very eye-opening and moving. I definitely learned a lot. I also enjoyed visiting the Cape of Good Hope which is the most southwestern point in Africa. It was very beautiful.
Question: How would you rate your experience overall? Would you travel internationally again?
Answer: I would rate it a 10/10. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Cape Town was not my first choice but it ended up being the best abroad experience. I would definitely travel internationally again. I want to go back to South Africa but I also want to go to Southeastern Asia.
Question: Do you think there are adequate protections in place for marginalized students who travel abroad?
Answer: I think so, at least for my specific program (January Term CIEE Cape Town). The housing was great and safe and the staff was very helpful. They checked in a lot about how we were feeling and helped us with anything we needed. They did a great job working to make it a positive experience
In short, travel abroad!! But make sure you do your research on the program and talk with other students that did it to make sure your trip is as enjoyable as possible.