On April 8, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, in partnership with the IU Alumni Association and assistance from the OVPDEMA Office of Overseas Studies and Scholarship Program, hosted Black and Abroad, a virtual event to inspire and educate Black students about study abroad. IU students and alumni connected for a guided tour of Paris, learned about Black life and culture in France, and heard from previous travelers about negotiating identity and traveling abroad.
“We’ve had so many students ask us about traveling abroad,” Gloria Howell, director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said. “And they’ve expressed fears about going abroad and if their race or identity limits them to where they should go.” Because of this, Howell pitched the idea of Black and Abroad to Leah McRath, associate director of alumni relations, whose enthusiastic response to the event helped ensure it provided as many students as possible with an unforgettable experience.
Restrictions for overseas study and overseas programs and being Black or being Black and LGBTQ+ and traveling abroad were of concern to students, who openly questioned how to talk to their parents about studying overseas once conditions eased up. “I brought Bill Bennet and Roy Hooper into the conversation, thinking they would be the best partners to identify alumni to participate in this virtual event. With Bill and Roy’s help, we were able to settle on Paris as the ideal city to feature, bring in a Black LGBTQ+ identifying IUPUI graduate that is currently studying in Paris, and secure an interview from a Black-owned travel company in France,” McRath said.
According to Howell, this event was made even better by the amount of collaboration it took. “Everyone had a part to play. Whether it was finding panelists, organizing the event, or providing information, this event was the result of everyone coming together to help Black students learn more about a wonderful opportunity.”
Ochmaa Escue, director of the OVPDEMA Overseas Studies and Scholarships Program, said that she was happy to recruit Gretchen Cook-Anderson, associate vice president for IES Abroad, and OVPDEMA student panelists to participate in the event. Additionally, Escue and Allie Prieboy from the IU Office of Overseas Study provided useful and necessary information about studying abroad.
“When students study abroad, everyone’s experience will be different,” Escue said. “It depends on the student’s perspective and providing available resources. Studying abroad can be impactful and empowering, and I want everyone interested to have access to what they need to feel comfortable.”
To view the recorded Black and Abroad event, please click this link. For more information on studying abroad, please visit the OVPDEMA Overseas Studies and Scholarship Program website or the IU Office of Overseas Study website.