“1, 2, 3!” I clicked on the glowing icon on my computer screen as I leaned back into my pillow. I did it, I bought the plane tickets. I laughed to myself, “Who would have thought that 3 years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I would be embarking on a journey to a country halfway around the world for a month?”
Granted, my own family members didn’t even believe me when I told them that I planned to study abroad. As a first-generation, first-year student from a low-income, immigrant family studying STEM, I had the odds stacked against me in terms of fulfilling my goals. According to Binghamton University, first-generation, low-income (FGLI) college students have some of the lowest study abroad participation rates in the U.S. Many FGLI students do not even conceive of studying abroad due to the unique set of challenges that we face in terms of academic and financial responsibilities.
When I was applying to Temple, the thought of studying abroad never crossed my mind because I had also thought it was an unobtainable possibility. Yet, after reflection on world and local events during and after the pandemic, I came to the realization of my ability to persist, digest, and prevail, much due to my background as an FGLI student. Coming to this epiphany, I locked my eyes on the goal of studying abroad and set my plan into motion. Throughout the year, I worked 4 jobs and saved as much money as I could, and I applied for scholarships in a frenzy. Although FGLI students face many barriers, no doubt we are a determined and persistent breed. With my efforts along with the support of the Temple community, I was able to secure enough funds to support my summer abroad. Needless to say, my family members were speechless when I waved my plane ticket receipt in front of their eyes with absolute delight.
Looking into summer programs, I decided to pursue the Global Good Program hosted by Temple in Prague, Czech Republic. Not only did the city intrigue me with its rich history and culture, it also called to me as a city often overlooked by Americans studying abroad. As an admirer of diverse architecture, I quickly grew attached to Prague’s rich museum and architecture scene and relatively inexpensive lifestyle.
As the spring semester comes to a close and my anticipation for Prague draws near, I am checking off items on my list and checking it twice (as Santa taught us): suitcase, toothpaste, sandals…Even now, it seems unimaginable that I accomplished my goal and will be traveling in less than 6 weeks time. Excitement aside, I plan to learn more about the history of the country and practice the language before departing so that I may be respectful to the land and its people—this means taking trips to my local library and borrowing language and travel books and Czech movies! In the coming weeks, I will also have to familiarize myself with the Czech guidelines for COVID-19, travel restrictions, Czech customs and manners, etc. Nevertheless, I look forward to the process and the journey from here onward!
As I continue through the summer, I hope that my blog will serve as a helpful resource for other FGLI (especially STEM) students looking to study abroad! You are not alone!