Never in my wildest dreams could have I imagined, that I, an African American girl from Long Beach, California, really would go on a journey so extraordinary that I’d be writing this entry in an Italian cafe in Berlin, Germany. So how did I get here? My curiosity about different cultures and interest in international travel started in my high school German language classroom. With just two years of language instruction and keen curiosity, at the age of sixteen I flew on a plane for the first time, to Siegen, Germany for a year-long academic exchange through the American Field Service (AFS).
My exchange year inspired me to continue studying German at the undergraduate level. I returned to Germany to study at the University of Munich for one year through the Junior Year in Munich program. This time, I lived in student housing with German and other international university students, attended university classes conducted in German, and interned at Learning-By-Talking Languages teaching conversational English to German businesswomen and men. Such experiences not only impacted my career trajectory, but informed my understanding of self as an African American woman carrying out her daily life in a foreign space. Being exposed to the diverse communities in Munich sparked my interest in the experience of Afro-Germans, a growing minority population living throughout Germany. My time in Munich allowed me to explore my academic interest, as well as participate in many extracurricular activities and opportunities: a weeklong excursion to Berlin, hiking the steep hills of Neuschwanstein, group trips to Vienna, Austria, and visiting a Nazi concentration camp in Dachau – located just outside of Munich. I was also able to reconnect with my friends and German host-mother from my high school student exchange year.
Motivated by my international experiences and academic interest, I pursued a PhD in history to learn more about minority communities in Germany. But my investigation into this area took a surprising turn when I discovered the German language diaries of Mary Church Terrell, a prominent African American civil rights and woman’s activist, educator, and global citizen. The realization that my personal and academic experiences in Germany were part of a larger historical intercultural exchange inspired my dissertation project that traces Terrell’s life and activism and networks in Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Working on this amazing project not only taught me that I belong to a long line of African American intellectuals who engaged German culture and language, but challenged me to think of the ways I could bring Terrell’s ideals of transnational interracial cooperation to bear on our own world.
The opportunities afforded me early on through international exchange programs and institutes continue. In 2014, I founded the Colored Bird Institute – a social good company that prepares millennials of color to take the journey of study abroad. In 2016, I was selected as Fulbright Germany's top candidate to receive a special Germanistic Society of America Fulbright award. I continued building my social enterprise during my Fulbright fellowship (2016-17) in Berlin, Germany by launching the Diversity International Scholarship Academy, in which resulted in an invitation from the U.S. Embassy Berlin to share my study abroad story and pilot program with German high school teachers in Rostock, Germany to adapt as a model for their work with minority students in Germany.
I'm also excited to share a blog article I wrote about the impact of study abroad on my life as a black woman, "It Must Be Schicksal (Destiny): One African American Woman's Extraordinary Study Abroad Journey," published by the German-American Fulbright Commission.