By Ty Malcolm
Tell your classmates you're studying in Austria, and you might get a joke about kangaroos. Mention Vienna, and you might spark a conversation about the canals of Venice. Eventually I just got used to these misunderstandings and had some answers ready. What was a little more difficult to explain was my destination for my week-long hiking trip in the Austrian Alps - the Montafon Valley, a mountainous region in the westernmost federal state (Bundesland) of Vorarlberg.
I am Texan but I was born in Kentucky. I am Texan but I am not a republican. But still, I am a Texan. I am not apart of many of the stereotypes associated with Texas. I was born in Kentucky but I was raised in Dallas, TX. Texans are people with immense pride in their state, their culture, and their history. Although I am not a born Texan, I absolutely consider myself one of them. It is interesting how being from Texas impacts so many aspects of my life, however, I suppose one’s hometown always has a heavy weight on their life. My experiences growing up have shaped who I am today and I was raised to always have pride in where I come from. Many people have preconceived notions about what Texans are like and I love to be the person who proves them wrong. Not all Texans carry guns, ride horses, or live in small towns. I love Tex-Mex, the state fair, and the Texas flag.
I am an American. I was born and raised in the United States. I sing the national anthem and say the pledge of allegiance. However, my mother is an Irish immigrant and my father is a Sierra Leonean immigrant and I am a citizen of the two nations. People are always so surprised when I tell them about my background but I wear my culture with pride. I do not think my mixed culture makes me any less American. The United States is a nation built on immigrants of course. I do think though that input of the two cultures has given me a unique perspective on American life. I am so incredibly grateful to live in the US but also to have been able to travel to both Ireland and Sierra Leone and see where I come from. I can understand more about myself and my history which has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. I think being mixed with three diverse cultures has also fueled my academic endeavors in International Affairs and given me a curiosity about different cultures. ...continue reading "Little Old Me"
I can easily say that my first two weeks in India have been full of awesome new experiences and a lot of delicious food. So far my personal favorite is egg parotta, which is egg, onion, drum tree leaves, and a number of spices mixed in with a flaky, buttery bread (parotta) that is chopped up. In addition to trying a number of tasty south Indian dishes, I am continuing to learn how to adjust to the seriously hot South Indian climate and working my way through a functional Tamil class. Tamil is spoken language of Tamil Nadu and is chock full of beautiful characters but has definitely proven to be a challenge to read! I have also stocked up on salwar kamiz, a traditionally north Indian style of dress that, in south India, is most commonly worn by young women.
This week, as most of my friends packed up and headed back to school, it suddenly started to seem real that I was about to do something very different. It was no longer a dream or a vision, in a few weeks I would actually be living in London. Choosing to study abroad wasn't an easy decision for me. Even though it was always something I knew I wanted to make part of my college experience, last spring, the end of my sophomore year, I finally began to feel like I found my place at GW. For a few weeks I agonized over whether I wanted to leave my friends, Washington D.C. and taking classes in my major. In the end, the pull of experiencing something new was too strong. I knew I might never get a chance to live abroad again in my life.
Asalaamaalekum from Dakar, Senegal!
I'm just finishing up my first week at the CIEE Development Studies program. I was attracted to this study abroad program for several reasons. First, it gives me a really unique opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of a country I might not otherwise get to visit, and since I'm living with a host family, I feel like I get a very authentic immersion experience. I also get to study development in a country that has been the subject of many types of development projects throughout the years, giving me an awesome and rare up-close learning opportunity. (I'm looking forward to the weekly field trips we get to take around the city for class!) Senegal also lets me work on my French-speaking skills (which definitely need work!), and I get to eat delicious baguettes for breakfast every morning!
It has been a week, folks. My strength, my will, my beliefs, and not to mention my stomach have been tested over and over. While I consider myself pretty adaptable, I believe I have found my match in Senegal. At my lowest point, when the electricity went out and my beloved fan bit the dust, I even questioned my choice in coming here. Why Senegal? Why CIEE? Why pick a country whose neighbor is the actual Sahara Desert? I reminded myself I chose this program and this country for very specific reasons.
Firstly, I have the travel bug and I have it bad. Thanks to Mom and Dad I have a passion for immersing myself in cultures and languages unfamiliar to me. In Cesar Chavez’s wise words: “preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” My personal opinion on the tragedies of today’s world is that they stem from people’s inability to accept that our differences are not wrong, but fascinating. Our differences allow us to do the very thing we do best: innovate, progress, and survive.