This is for those who are scared of the unknown and unfamiliar. This is for those who have dealt with a lot and may not believe studying abroad is the right move for whatever reason. This is for those who are the first. This is for those who’s life prepared them for the biggest unknown and unfamiliar thing thus far. This is for those who need a push of hope and faith. This is for those who dream endlessly.
As a kid, we are exposed to so many different elements of life and the world. We are exposed to prejudices, contradictions, ice-cream, books, school, family ties, love, and everything in between. However, while we are exposed to an endless amount of people, places and things we are just as limited to an endless amount of people, places and things. For example, I have limited exposure to diversity, hammocks, palm trees, mountains, vineyards, oceans, safaris, swordfish, and the rest of the world excluding the US. On the contrary, my childhood experience included being exposed to what I have first listed along with listening to the news every morning announcing another child, man, women, grandmother, grandfather or cousin has been missing and or murdered. I have been exposed to bullies and how cruel people can get when they don’t see any hope in their life so they turn to the next kid in hopes of tearing down their dreams before they get a chance to live out such. I have been exposed to the obstacles and challenges that come with growing up in a teenage parent household where you are relatively close to your parents’ generation so everything you know, they know and a lot of head-bumping occurs. I have been exposed to generational curses.
Throughout all of this exposure growing up, I have been a “special case” as many would say. Before I saw it in me, those around me saw something unique within me. I have been told I will be something no one has yet seen in my community and family. I will be the person that can dismantle the generational curses and provide an alternative route to life – one that brings hope and faith. I guess it’s safe to say those around me were right. I have been placed on a pedestal as high as Table Mountain that I both admire and resent. I have my entire family looking at me as the one to “get us out.” I have family members bragging to me to strangers in hospitals, churches and grocery stores. The stories usually includes my unique GPA in high-school, my distinction as Valedictorian in my respective grades all four years in high school, my acceptance to some of the top universities and colleges in the country, my inclusion in The New York Times and then the newest addition – me going to South Africa to study abroad. Personally, I don’t like when others brag about me. It never sat well with me but I understand how all of this is unknown and unfamiliar to my family and community so I let it slide.
What all of those people were alluding to or partially alluding to when they looked to me as the “special case” were the dreams I would end up dreaming and making come true. When people hear the phrase “study abroad” many things pop up. For some, it can mean a person is taking a vacation from their home school in hopes of relaxing while “doing school work” for a few months or so. For some, it can mean taking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they would never come across again if they didn’t take on it then and there. Then there is me. For me, it meant a mixture of the two meanings I’ve just mentioned BUT it also meant something else. Studying abroad was my definitive moment to break generational curses that plague my family and community. Studying abroad meant that I could FINALLY touch base with the dreams that I have envisioned for myself and the dreams that my late grandparents have envisioned for our family. Studying abroad meant that I could finally say, “It’s possible y’all.” What exactly is possible though? In my opinion, it depends on who you are asking. For me, this is what’s possible:
I have grown up in a community that doesn’t branch off into other parts of the country or world for that matter. Everyone stays put. I believe it’s because a lot of people are afraid of uncomfortableness and content with familiarity. It also has a lot to do with not having someone to look up to who has done it before. There are not a lot of “goal models” that have left my community to do the unknown and unfamiliar. In fact, I am the first person in my immediate family, both paternally and maternally, to leave my hometown and go over 6,000 miles away to the unknown and unfamiliar – Washington D.C. I went to DC by myself with no familial ties in the district. I left the only place I knew where I was comfortable and familiar with my surroundings. What has kept me pushing despite such a huge leap was that I knew I had some dreams to accomplish, studying abroad being one of the top bullets.
While studying abroad is a huge deal, it’s a deal that needs to be explained from the perspective of someone who grew up with all of these factors in play. Despite what a person may encounter in life and what obstacle that may be in the way, there is an energy tuck deep down inside that has the potential to take every encounter and go through every obstacle in order to do the unknown and unfamiliar. Therefore, studying abroad means I can potentially give a different story to the news. Studying abroad means I can expose my family and community to another part of the world in hopes of inspiring them to want to go out for themselves and create experiences. Studying abroad means I can set the foundation of another life plan in my family and break some of the generational curses. Studying abroad means that despite what life may throw your way, and trust me I know life can throw A LOT, it is still possible.
For so long I was limited to one story of life but now with me being in South Africa between the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, I am exposed to another unknown and unfamiliar. The difference this time around is that while it took me so long to break away from being comfortable and content with familiarity, it doesn’t have to be that way for the next person. Why? Because this story is now out there.