When I was only five months old, I went on my first trip. This was the inception of my traveling career. My mother took me on a road trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico and I have been traveling ever since. This explains why I feel a natural born instinct to see new places. At an early age, I was instilled with an appreciation of cultures other than my own. Today, my travels are influenced primarily by the idea of mutual understanding.
In elementary school, I learned how to play the flute. I was awful during the beginning, yet during the holidays I performed for my family. My mother would always say “Good job, honey.” However, she would always discourage me from giving an encore performance. In high school I made the decision to join the band which would soon lead me to a life-changing tour of Europe. This two week concert tour, placed me on my path as a global citizen.
A global citizen is typically defined as someone who identifies with a global community rather than their citizenship to any nation. We feel a sense of belonging to the world and others around the globe. However, this definition lacks a sense of responsibility to others. There should be an added characteristic to encourage others to build their global awareness. My experience as a blogger, and the founder of HBCUs Abroad demonstrates that inspirational characteristic.
When selecting a college, I knew that I wanted to attend an HBCU. Whenever I visited families in other states, my mother would always conduct an impromptu college visit to historically black colleges and universities. I had no desire to attend a predominantly white institution because I felt as if I already had that experience in high school. I decided on Hampton University and moved fourteen hours away to what would soon become my “home by the sea”.
Despite the time-consuming schedule of college, I was determined to learn more of the world through study abroad. Before the start of my junior year, a plan was set in motion to spend one academic semester in Costa Rica. To hang on to the memories of salsa dancing on the beach, and learning to surf, I began to write. I wrote almost every day as if I was running out of time. As if my time abroad was a dream from which I would soon wake. I published these reflections online for everyone to read. Looking back, I noticed I complain a lot about lack of internet connection but since then I have moved away from first world problems and embrace the unique circumstances in which I find myself.
In pursuit of mutual understanding once again, I packed for a 27-month adventure to the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was inspired by the goals of promoting a better understanding of Americans to Filipinos and a better understanding of Philippine culture to Americans. Through my blog, The Natural Travelista, I expand upon my international travel stories. However, my story alone is not enough. It is time to share other stories similar to mine. That is why I launched HBCUs Abroad.
HBCUs Abroad aims to expand the international footprint of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their students. I envision an educational landscape where the HBCU classroom spans beyond borders and national lines. Our future positions back colleges as vehicles for the global preservation, advancement and exchange of black culture. The goals are to expand the network of global citizens, and build global awareness and cross-cultural understanding among the HBCU community. In order to motivate HBCU students to undertake opportunities for international experiences, we have featured more than twenty students from more than 10 universities and we are always looking for more stories. Looking to the future, HBCUs Abroad will extend from the digital space and touch down on campuses to continue the work.
My purpose for being an international educator gives new meaning to the term “Global Citizen” and provides a different way to look at travel. It is not only about traveling around the world but actively being involved in it. It means developing the others to be citizens of the world. That is our responsibility.