Recently I went on a study abroad trip to Thessaloniki, Greece. It was absolutely the best experience I’ve ever had in my life that I will never forget. A complete cultural shock for me, but I adjusted quickly. I can assure you that I am not the same person from when I set foot in Greece, to when I landed back in the United States. Others may assume that this was a vacation, but it was an educational trip that has broadened my horizon to a higher level than ever before.
As an African American male I feel obligated to encourage others to study abroad. Greece is a place where they take pride in their country. Everywhere I went, people were staring, not out of hatred but out of pure curiousity. With that being said, majority of the Greek population hasn’t been to America and have not come in contact with many African Americans in their country. So for them questions were raised like, “what brings you here, are you an immigrant, or what basketball team do you play for?” I could sense from their questions “foreign stereotypes” they hold about us as Americans. Outside our country we feel we are discriminated against as Americans, one can almost always sense the anti-american sentiment from just talking to people from other countries, but outside of the sentiments are people who genuinely want to learn about the American culture.
For the past 20 years immigration has been a major problem in Greece , due to a rise in the number of crimes committed by immigrants within the country, it was difficult for us to engage in conversation with Greeks due to these preconceived notions. Studying abroad challenges you, takes you out of your comfort zone, and makes you appreciative of the opportunities you have in your own country. As African Americans there are so many things that we need to get educated on. Cultural intelligence is a less talked about component that is critical to our success. When you increase your cultural intelligence you’re more likely to work effectively and succeed in a diverse job setting. Cultural competence is a concept I feel we as African Americans should get accustomed to. Greece is currently going through a crisis where the unemployment rate is over 28% and jobs are extremely limited. Whereas, in the United States there are more job opportunities compared to other countries.
Immersing in the Greek culture has expanded my vision to see other countries, extended my passion to leave my mark on the world and has awoken me to issues to which we as African Americans should be informed about. Studying abroad is a life changing experience that all African Americans should pursue. It will challenge you, change you, and will give you the platform to share with others the knowledge you’ve attained. You can change trend in your family and inspire them to become more adventurous. Educate yourself on how other countries feel about where you’re from and your culture. Misconceptions that you have on other countries, go and see for yourself.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking how things maybe, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson.
– Khari Jones Jr.
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