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)
Madrid, Spain in Museo de Reina Sophia