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Mentor Profile

Bio

mentor picture LaNitra Berger
 
LaNitra Berger
Senior Manager of Research and Policy
NAFEO
I am a senior manager of research and policy at NAFEO, where I promote international education on historically and predominantly black college campuses. I received a BA in international relations and art history from Stanford... I am a senior manager of research and policy at NAFEO, where I promote international education on historically and predominantly black college campuses. I received a BA in international relations and art history from Stanford University, where I studied abroad in the Paris program. I did an internship at the Musee Rodin in Paris, which helped me decide to go to graduate school in art history. I will finish my PhD in art history at Duke University in 2008. I'm writing my dissertation about a South African artist named Irma Stern, whose passion for travel and her curiosity about other cultures produced a fascinating body of work. Through my dissertation research, I did a 1-year exchange program at the Free University in Berlin, and I completed field work in Cape Town, South Africa. My study abroad experiences have given me amazing opportunities to learn new languages, make friends around the world, and to understand my racial identity from a global perspective. I want to help more students catch the travel bug!

Responses

  1. The most important questions to ask are: How does this experience fit into my academic and career goals? And, what kind of preparation will I need to do to have a successful experience? If you already speak French, for example, it might be easier to consider studying in a French-speaking country. Or, if you know you’re interested in international development, a program in Latin America, the Caribbean, or Africa may help you secure a job in this field after graduation. I studied art history in college, so I decided that Paris would be the best place to study abroad if I wanted to be immersed in the art world. Because I had already studied French in high school and college, Paris was a natural place to improve my language skills as well.
    8 answers – Deciding On A Program
  2. Once you decided where you want to go, you will probably have many different programs to choose from. The quality of the program should be the most important factor in choosing a program. Check with your study abroad or academic advisor to see if they have any recommendations. If you don’t have a study abroad office, make sure to check with someone in your major department to determine whether the courses and credits offered by your selected program will be accepted at your institution. You should also look at how much the program costs and whether your financial aid will transfer. If so, find out early what you have to do to make sure your tuition bills are paid on time. If your financial aid does not transfer, does the program provide scholarships that cover tuition and living expenses? Are you eligible for outside scholarships that can cover the difference? Because there are so many study abroad programs, most students should be able to find an affordable program that satisfies their interests without busting their budgets. It’s worth spending a little extra time doing research and asking for advice beforehand to make sure that the right study abroad opportunity is also cost efficient.
    6 answers – Deciding On A Program
  3. I wish I had known more about the value of online resources in my host country before I studied abroad. For example, when I lived in Berlin, I discovered a listserv of English-speaking academics called Berlin Scholars. The listserv members exchanged information about Berlin housing, items for sale, fellowships, and they even met up at different bars and cafes in the area. It was a great resource and a wonderful way of finding answers to questions I had while I was there. Before you leave, find out if a similar list exists where you’ll be studying. You may be able to ask questions about your host country before you arrive, and you may even make some friends to help you get settled.
    5 answers – Before You Leave – Personal
  4. It is absolutely crucial to know something about your host country before you leave. Luckily, between the Internet and some excellent travel guides, it should not be difficult to find important information. You should find out logistical information such as visa and passport requirements, etiquette, how you’ll get to your place of residence, and some of the dangers to look out for when you first arrive. Invest in a good travel guide to your host country so that you can have all of this information before you leave. It will also be a handy reference while you’re there, since there’s no guarantee that English-language publications will be readily available in every country.
    7 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – Before You Leave – For Native Americans
  5. Many students experience brutal, ugly racism in the United States every day. Therefore, fear of experiencing racism should not deter students from studying abroad. Parents should understand that studying abroad can be a liberating experience for students of color, who may view their racial identity in a more positive way after spending time in a country where they are not judged based on stereotypes. In most cases, people in foreign countries are interested in meeting Americans and learning about American culture, and they are not preoccupied with skin color in the same way that Americans are. However, racism is something that can occur abroad. Information is your best ally in feeling comfortable in sending your child abroad. It’s important to read about the host country’s history and to be aware of any current events that may shed some light on race relations in that country.

    Safety is also a major concern when traveling abroad. Check the State Department website for the host country to find out if there are any travel warnings or advisories. If there are, you should think carefully about whether the potential risks will hinder your student’s study abroad experience. The threat of terrorist attacks in European capitals has made parents more cautious about sending their students to popular study abroad destinations. Although the threat should be taken seriously, talking to your student about the potential dangers and making an emergency action plan will help build confidence that your student will be safe when they depart. Wherever you go, it’s important to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times and to listen to your “gut instincts” in uncertain situations.

    4 answers – Racism – Safety Issues
  6. It depends on where I was studying. In Europe, people were curious about the black experience in America. In South Africa, blacks expressed a sense of racial solidarity and whites were interested in discussing American politics since I was there shortly after the Iraq war began. I think that people were very curious about my background. I didn’t look like they expected a black person to look, so they often assumed that I was from somewhere other than the United States. In general, people were friendly and wanted me to tell them about life in America. I had the most difficult experiences in Germany, where I experienced some “anti-foreigner” discrimination. Even though it was scary to be confronted by people who disliked me because of my skin color, my experiences made me a stronger person. And, I still had a wonderful time in Germany, where I met some of my best friends and learned a lot about the country’s history and culture.
    12 answers – Racism – Gender – While Abroad
  7. Funding is usually the most significant barrier for students. I have helped students locate funding for their study abroad programs and helped them to convince their parents that their experience would be worthwhile. Even though a student may have secured funding for their program, they may still have to come up with money up front to buy plane tickets or apply for a passport. These fees can be substantial and can prohibit a student from participating in a program. Also, many students rely on the support of their family and their community to help them get an education. I always encourage students to reach out to this same network for study abroad support. Neighbors, friends, and local businesses all have a stake in student success, so they are often willing to offer financial support to students if they understand how study abroad fits into their career goals.
    6 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – For Native Americans
  8. It’s important to understand the world you live in, and the best way to do that is through travel and study abroad. Study abroad is the best way to develop life skills that will last a lifetime. You will learn how to persevere in the face of hardship, how to use creative problem solving skills, how to overcome communication barriers, and how to see people as individuals rather than as stereotypes. For these reasons, study abroad should be part of every student’s college experience.
    16 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – Personal – For Native Americans
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