Spring 2015 was the year I decided to study abroad after considering it for roughly four years prior.

As I prepare to graduate from Temple University’s Strategic Communications department, I realize my pathway to studying abroad was not typical. Born and raised in North Philadelphia, it was clear that I always wanted to expose myself to cultures beyond my own. A section of Philadelphia with high poverty, high crime, and high unemployment, and a 6% college graduation rate, I found myself aspiring to become more than my surroundings.

The study abroad conversation started at my beloved Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. There was a writing competition that gave participants an opportunity to travel to the 2012 World Olympics in London, England. The selection committee for the competition had to choose between my sister and I. Knowing one day that I would study abroad, I let my sister go instead.

Mentorship led me to this position. My mentor Cynthia Estremera, now an English Department doctoral student at Lehigh University, stated that the best thing I could do during my college experience was study abroad, for a longer duration of time. Thus, I took the challenge.

Despite many oppositional factors that contributed to tears, ripped applications, and long hot chocolate breaks, I received all the funding, and social support needed to study abroad. After a sleepless night, hugs and tears at the airport before boarding, and an eight­hour plane ride, I landed at my destination of choice — the beautiful city of London, England. Not knowing the difference between British English and American English, I found myself in a seven­-day culture shock about the cost of a pound, the under­seasoned fish and chips, and a little confusion about being in a new place without my family. My first time away from home ignited anger, which changed due to my peers on this journey with me. Meeting all 30 participants in the Temple University London program changed my perspective.

In addition to this, I became fully immersed in London culture with weekly excursions through the Foundation of International Education and my internship at The Winch, where I was first introduced to social enterprise/social entrepreneurship. The Winch is a nonprofit organization based in London. Their mission is to serve disenfranchised youth from cradle to career. Their pipeline approach is to targets high ­risk youth ensuring support at all points of development.

The Winchs’ introduction into social entrepreneurship prompted me to propose a similar type of program model in the City of Philadelphia. I entered a competition with a partner, and we won second place. This experience led me to my most recent experiences with Diversity Abroad, the African­ American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, & DE, Temple University Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership, and other individual projects.

Studying abroad was one of the best learning experiences I had. Traveling to sixteen cities and five countries brought a new sense of individuality in addition to self-worth. I aim to have a future revolving around community advancement, inclusion, and business development.