Being Black Abroad

First, if you haven’t already subscribed to my YouTube Channel and watched my two Study Abroad Vlogs, do so now!

I give tours on campus and one of the main points I stress on each tour is how Howard pushes its students to go abroad. There is a lack of minority students going abroad and it is a discussion worth having. In contrast, it isn’t as easy as a little speech; there is so much to unravel.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have as much knowledge of traveling outside of the country compared to our counterparts. Better yet, the undiscussed fear of potential racial profiling abroad. Imagine what we go through here, in America, potentially on steroids. Don’t even get me started on the attempt to fund your abroad semester. These are just a few examples of reasons why minorities do not attempt to go abroad.

I have proven all of these cases wrong by studying and traveling abroad.

Aside from the above cases, the biggest reason I found is that we don’t have many examples of other black students going abroad. I know for one, this was my reason. I have to say, attending Howard quickly changed that narrative and I was completely inspired to go. Seeing other black students in such different environments was an attractive site for me. So much, that I found myself staying in a homestay, in Nice, France, with a family of two boys+ a dog, turtle, and bird, and in a four-bedroom apartment building. Crazy.

I went from eating sushi or thai food in my dorm to eating vegetable soup and cheese quiches for dinner.

Interesting- yes it was.

I went from taking the shuttle to class to walking 15 minutes to a bus stop (paying €1.50 each time or a €10 pass when I was ballin’) for a 45-minute drive to the cold and woodsy mountains of The South of France.

The first day, I asked myself, “What insanity did I sign up for ?”

Post going abroad, it was one of the best decisions of my life- despite it ending early because of a global pandemic (I mean, who would have thought!). Each city and day offered novel experiences. I’m going to share 6 of the biggest surprises of my experience going abroad.

  1.It was cheaper to go abroad than to stay on campus.

Howard actually refunded me close to 3,000 this semester. What did I use that money for? My travel to France and weekend trips. I was able to go to London, Paris, Milan, Lake Como, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and so many small cities in France. Before the pandemic, I had trips booked for Morrocco, Tangier, and Ibizia. Yes, I am still grieving.

2. I was able to travel to another city/ country for as low as $10.

So here I was, walking up five flights of stairs to my friend’s apartment (right on the water of Nice’s Beaches) and right when I open the door, all I hear is,


I flew to London ROUNDTRIP for $22 (bags and seats). Yes. $22. I split the closet-sized hotel with a friend and since we both have been before, went did a lot of non-touristy things for the weekend!

3. I got to practice more French than I ever have in one semester.

Every evening, I had dinner with my host family and my friend Micah from Howard. The first night, they spoke so much French. I have taken French since 9th Grade and even still, I felt so behind. I caught on to some words and when I wanted to respond, my host mother helped talk it out with me. In the end, I spoke so much French but still felt like my schooling could only take me so far. Just like in America, The French use a lot of slang and shorten several words. I wish I had more time to observe and practice.

4. Long Classes, not so nice Teachers, and a remote campus.

Classes were 3 hours each week, sometimes multiple weeks. French teachers were not the friendliest and the whole “school” part of the study abroad was not fun. I’ll be honest, every day I was done with school, there would be an email telling me a class was rescheduled to a Friday I normally had off. Not fun. Going from having office hours to barely being able to get a word in was not cool. On top of it all, I was waking up at 5:00 am for an 8:00 am class and on some days, would not get back until 8:30 pm- just for 2 or 3 classes.

5. Relax by the beach then head to happy hour- all by 2 pm.

On days where I only had one class, I was done by 11:30 and back to Nice very early. I would go back to my homestay, drop my stuff off, and just wander. The best days were when I ended up on the promenade, with gelato, just me, myself, the water, and the guy blowing the biggest bubbles into the sunny sky. I will miss watching the little kids crash into them.

6. Unexpectedly, there was a strong African presence in France.

Although we may have the same skin color, we are cut from very different cloths. Here I was, with my group of Howard friends, all from Vegas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Chicago, etc- meeting people from Sierra Leone, Nairobi, Nigeria, and beyond. Yes, we bonded and did that silent “whatsup” head nod in the hallway (if you are black in a room full of people who aren’t, you know exactly what I’m talking about). Through our differences, we still found some comfort in our similarities over protective hairstyles, our path to end up in France, and our experiences in school. Telling each other where the closest beauty supply in Nice was. I was shocked that there would be a place where if I wanted, I would be able to buy a jar of EcoStyler.

All I have to say is, once this pandemic is over if you are still in school- do not pass up the opportunity to study abroad. Do not get discouraged. I am telling you, it was the best 3 1/2 months of my life and it will be yours too. See some of my best photos below.

1 Comment

  1. Sasha
    May 19, 2020 / 6:16 pm

    Loved this post, Hagan! And such beautiful photos!!

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