Sunday, August 24, 2014

Over There

Photos Courtesy of Janelle Whitehurst
Janelle with friends in Barcelona, Spain

Blogger's Note: Janelle Whitehurst is a Pottstown igh School graduate attending the University of Richmond. This year she had an opportunity to study abroad. Read what she has to say about the experience. 

Janelle in the Maastricht Caves area of the Netherlands.
I had the opportunity to study abroad in Fall 2013 at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics in The Netherlands. I have to say that this time has been the best four months of my life, so far.

There are fears amongst the African-American community – fears about the potential of racism, or there being no place to get your hair done, lack of friends going with you, finances – that make us one of the most underrepresented groups in study abroad.

I personally had fears about all of these things, but after doing study abroad myself, I say – go for it!

One of the benefits of the experience is the self-discovery that can occur from having time to yourself.
Janelle in Stockholm

The experience was like an awakening to who I am not only as an American, but as a young African-American woman.

Most countries where Richmond sends students find black people curious but beautiful. People usually
find your nationality more peculiar than your skin tone and I never had any encounters with racism.

Many people I encountered thought that I, of all people, was exotic and beautiful for being American and also being black, which took me aback.

Not that I've ever felt inferior or ugly at home in America, but I've never felt so revered for who I am.

Where I studied, there were several black beauty shops so my hair wasn’t a problem.

A friend who studied in the same city handled the issue by wearing braids for her stay.

As for lack of friends, living amongst a myriad of different international students is actually one of the best parts; you didn't go halfway around the world to hang out with the same people you have already spent two years with at Richmond!
At dinner in Janelle's dorm in The Netherlands.

Making new international friends expands your perspective and deepens insights you would never get with friends back home.

Learning about their backgrounds and lifestyles has been the biggest eye-opening and heart-widening experience.

And about the money, Richmond allows your financial aid package to travel with you to finance your experience abroad.
Janelle. who has played on the college Quidditch
Team, at Harry Potter's Plaform 9 3/4 at
King's Cross Station in London.

There’s a reason why a third of the junior class goes abroad each fall – our school has one of the
country’s best study abroad programs.

The value of study abroad for students of color is that it empowers you and gives you a heightened sense of pride in who you are and where you come from.

In additional to the personal benefits, there are also professional benefits from study abroad, such as it giving you a better competitive advantage for your job search; as businesses become more internationally integrated, employers want workers with international experience and a global perspective

Janelle Whitehurst,
Business Administration major
Maastricht University, School of Business & Economics, The Netherlands

The Digital Notebook invites other Pottstown High School alum to share their experiences after graduation. Send material to

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