On March 31, the Padnos International Center will be holding the virtual event “Being Black and Brown
Abroad.” Hosting a panel of students and alumni of color, the event seeks to boost the representation of historically underrepresented students in Grand Valley State University and other study abroad programs by helping students better understand how study abroad works, as well as getting students familiar with the benefits.
“A study abroad is an incredibly valuable experience, especially during college,” said Alissa Lane, the international programs coordinator at the Padnos International Center. “For a lot of students, it might be their first chance to leave the country and meet new cultures and perspectives. It’s an eye-opening experience and a time for personal and professional growth that can help you develop as a person and help you develop your future.”
But not everyone is sure that a study abroad experience is right for them, and so the event seeks to help show attendees that not only is studying abroad a positive, transformative experience but also that it is within everyone’s reach. Panelists will be sharing their stories and experiences while abroad and Padnos International Center employees will help answer student questions about affordability and viability.
“In addition to the panelists talking about their experiences, there will also be Padnos International Center Staff present, who afterward, will help attendees think about how they might do their own study abroad, discussing things like scholarships and funding,” said Lane.
The event will also focus on the unique experiences had by students of color while abroad and seeks to help prepare students of color who are considering a study abroad experience. Panelists will not only be relating their experiences but also handing out advice.
“I’ve never been on this panel before, nor have I ever gone to an event like this before, so I’m very excited to be there,” said Magingo Mpungwe, one of the panelists at the virtual event. “As a black lady, it’s always at the back of my head, no matter where I go, that people might treat me differently. So, I’m going to talk about how to prepare yourself for a study abroad, while keeping in mind that there may be discrimination depending on where you go.”
Mpungwe said that discrimination happens all around the world, but doesn’t necessarily follow students wherever they go. However, keeping a positive mindset and focusing more on immersing oneself in the culture.
But there are still barriers that prevent some students from studying abroad, and representation is one of them.
“Historically, study abroad is mostly Caucasian and female, and so this event helps highlight the stories and experiences of black and brown students who have already studied abroad,” Lane said. “It elevates and brings to light those stories and gives students the opportunity to reflect on those experiences. It might encourage some students to think more seriously about study abroad, maybe if they’ve not seen someone close to them study abroad before, or maybe their family has not done study abroad before, so this might help people feel that study abroad is for them. We’ve had students come to the event as an attendee, and next year they’re a panelist, so it’s nice to see it as a force for inspiration.”
The event will be held virtually through Zoom on March 31. To attend, students must RSVP on the GVSU website, where they will then be sent a Zoom link.