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Reasons to Study Abroad

For African American Students

African Americans have been traveling abroad to expand their horizons for decades. During the 1940s, many prominent African Americans traveled to Europe. The legendary writers James Baldwin (Go Tell It On The Mountain, 1953) and Richard Wright (Native Son, 1941) are two examples of African Americans who flourished in Paris after World War II.

Fighting a war against discrimination overseas presented some irony to African Americans living in an unjust and segregated America. Traveling abroad gave these writers a fresh perspective on their own society and of their potential as individuals across the globe.

1Exploring your family’s heritage can be another strong motivation to study abroad. Many African Americans report tremendous educational and personal benefits from exploring countries where their families have roots. Even if you are unaware of your family’s exact origins, traveling abroad can enrich your life and provide a historical context for your life!

Many well-known African Americans have traveled to Africa to connect with their roots. The renowned poet and author Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970), as well as influential celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, have spent significant time in Africa exploring their heritage and teaching others about the importance of their journeys.

There is a distinct challenge African Americans face abroad. Many other cultures only have experience with African Americans through the American media (i.e. news, sports, music, and movies). African American students may become frustrated when stereotypes from home follow them overseas.

However, this is your chance to be an individual, as well as a representative of your culture, and to encourage positive understanding of global diversity.

With the globalization of our world, the number of African American students studying abroad is on the rise. Whether you decide on Paris or Pretoria, Beijing or Berlin, Guatemala or Ghana, there are countless reasons why you should participate in a study abroad program.

A number of African Americans were strongly shaped by their international experiences, including:

  • Ernest Coleman, physicist and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, spent a year in Hamburg, Germany.
  • W.E.B. DuBois, writer and civil rights spokesman of the 19th century, spent two years studying at the University of Berlin in Germany.
  • Ernest Everett Just, Zoologist, Biologist and Physiologist, known for his work with cell development and physiology, studied in Berlin, Germany.
  • James Lesure, star of television's Las Vegas on NBC, studied abroad for one year at the University of Kent in England.
  • Norbert Rillieux, Chemist and inventor of a device that revolutionized the sugar industry, received education in Paris, France.
  • Paul Robeson, lawyer, actor, singer, activist. He traveled extensively around the world to perform and promote cultural understanding.
  • Sista Soulja, activist, novelist, actress, and hip-hop artist, studied abroad as an undergraduate at the University of Salamanca in Spain. While in college, she traveled extensively to England, Finland, France, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.
  • Alice Walker, activist and author of The Color Purple, spent time in Uganda.
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