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  • Writer's pictureWe See You Magazine

The Walking Culture Shock

By: Antoine' Cunningham

The bliss I experienced while I was abroad is one of the most unexplainable and fulfilling feelings I have ever experienced. Prior to going abroad, I wanted to study outside of the United States for three years. It was an idea brought to me by my old Spanish teacher from high school and I was super intrigued (I actually reached back out to him when I came back to thank him). I am one of the first in my family to attend a four-year university. Studying abroad was not only a new idea for me, but also for my family too. In addition to this being a new idea for myself, this is a new idea for the black community. Studying abroad is a fairly new concept that was geared towards rich, white people. I was excited to break this barrier for myself, my family, and my community.

I had the opportunity to go to Cuenca, Spain and study at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha; however, while I was there, I had so many amazing opportunities to travel around Europe and have an array of experiences. I got to drink wine in France, ride a ferry from Ireland to the United Kingdom, ride a boat in the water ways of Berlin, take a solo trip to Portugal, and so many more experiences that I could have never imagined. It was important for me to experience as much as I could while also maintaining my grades, of course. Though I had an array of wonderful experiences, there were many moments where I felt alone and homesick. I was the only black person in the international program of my university. I did not feel fully understood. Quite frankly, it sucked needing to constantly explain to people why they could not say the n-word, why they could not touch my hair, or how I was constantly being stared at when I went in public. As much as these people were culture shock for me, I was a culture shock for them. I had to learn how to manage my emotions in these moments. I did not want to taint international views of black people, especially black women. I also had to learn how to manage my mental health because these experiences were overwhelming at times. I was fortunate to live in a super peaceful city with beautiful lakes, mountains, art museums, and beautiful pastures. I was able to utilize them for moments when I needed solitude. I would also call my family and friends when I needed to vent. When I felt disconnected from my culture, I found ways to replicate it through music or food.

I am grateful for my experience abroad. It is one that is invaluable and will remember for the rest of my life. I am not the same person I was before this journey and I have gained a high understanding of life and of those around me. I am grateful for this transforming and enlightening experience.

Solo trip in Alicante, Spain (Castillo de Santa Barbara)

Cuenca, Spain

Madrid, Spain in Museo de Reina Sophia

Valencia, Spain

Gant, Belgium

Berlin, Germany


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