Life

20 things you might hear or experience if you’re a Black girl studying abroad

Yes, I really got asked that.

Just a year ago I spent the first semester of my junior year in college studying abroad in Prague. The city was beautiful and it was an amazing opportunity to learn about and explore different cultures. Now while all of this is true, I was frequently left shaken by the interactions that I had with random people and the things that I was asked.  

Before going abroad I took to the internet to prepare myself for what to expect, so if you’re in a similar position, be prepared for the possibility of experiencing the following:

1. Can I touch your hair?

The Tempest shares a gif from Chewing Game that shows a Black woman moving away from a white woman touching her hair.
[Gif via Giphy description: Chewing Game scene that shows a Black woman moving away from a white woman touching her hair.]
This was my more common question. Everyone was very interested in my hair. Some didn’t even bother to ask.

2. How long did it take you to do your hair like that?

The Tempest shares a gif of Issa from Insecure rolling her eyes.
[Gif via Giphy description: Issa from Insecure rolling her eyes.]
If you weren’t already guessing, people were really intrigued by my hair. They asked me all types of questions and were definitely willing to invade my personal space to find out.

3. The rockstar hair is out today

The Tempest shares a gift of a Black woman face palming.
[Gif via Giphy description: a Black woman face palming. ]
I started my semester abroad with a protective hairstyle, but when it came time to take my braids out many people were curious about my real hair.

4. I love your hair

The Tempest shares a gif of a Black woman flipping her hair.
[Gif via Giphy description: a Black woman flipping her hair.]
Not every interaction is bad either! Many people positively commented on my hair.

5. You look exotic.

The Tempest shares a gif of a Black woman rolling her eyes.
[Gif via Giphy description: a Black woman rolling her eyes.]

6. Where are you from?

The Tempest shares a gif showing a Black woman confused.
[Gif via Giphy description: Tessa Thompson shaking her head in thought.]
This one is sort of a general introductory question, but it also came with different expectations. Maryland wasn’t really the answer they were looking for, my ancestral roots were what they were searching for. Nonetheless, having to explain that slavery complicated my family tree was… interesting.

7. Americans are too sensitive

[Gif via Giphy description: gif of Nene Leakes rolling her eyes.]
[Gif via Giphy description: gif of Nene Leakes rolling her eyes.]
The idea of being politically correct was one that many people abroad did not really understand. They just thought it was sensitivity and a lack of humor.

8. I’ve never talked to an American girl before

The Tempest shares a gif of a woman showing interest.
[Gif via Giphy description: a Black woman nodding her head with interest.]
This seems like a harmless statement, but the tone was really one that said they never talked to an African American girl before.

9. America’s not really your motherland

[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman rolling her eyes with the word "SERIOUSLY" at the bottom of the image.]
[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman rolling her eyes with the word “SERIOUSLY” at the bottom of the image.]
Another very awkward moment amongst other interesting moments. 

10. Can I take a picture with you?

The Tempest shares a gif of a man with puckered lips to show a negative reaction.
[Gif via Giphy description: a black man with puckered lips showing a negative reaction.]

11. So, the stereotypes are true?

The Tempest shares a gif of a woman gesturing that she's listening.
[Gif via Giphy description: a gif of a woman gesturing that she’s listening.]
Yes, this was a real question. I was almost speechless. Wait for the follow-up.

12. African-Americans really do love chicken, huh?

The Tempest shares a gif of a stressed reaction.
[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman with stressed body language.]
So this was the follow-up. Yes, I was stunned. 

13. Did you vote for Trump?

[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman with a confused face.]
[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman with a confused face.]
Now I was really thrown off by this one. In my head, I was thinking: “I don’t know what about my identity would lead anyone to think I would vote for Trump”, but nonetheless I was asked. And quickly answered with a definitely not. 

14. This club will have more of your type of music

[Gif via Giphy description: Ru Paul with a cringing smile.]
[Gif via Giphy description: Ru Paul with a cringing smile.]
What is my type of music? 

15. You probably shouldn’t go to that club

[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman with mouthing "oh".]
[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman with mouthing “oh”.]
While it’s nice for a heads up in where I should and should not go, it is also kind of jarring.

16. Invasion of personal space

The Tempest shares a gif of a woman saying "you got to back up a little bit."
[Gif via Giphy description: a woman saying “you got to back up a little bit.”]
Whether it be standing really close to take in a real life Black person or actually touching me, personal space was not always something that others thought I should have.

17. No Black hair products

The Tempest shares a gif of a woman spraying her afro with hair spray.
[Gif via Giphy description: a Black woman spraying her afro with hair spray.]
[bctt tweet=”Just skip the stress and pack your own products.” username=”wearethetempest”]

18. CONSTANT questioning

The Tempest shares a gif of a box with a question mark on it.
[Gif via Giphy description: a box with a question mark on it.]
I got loads of questions about how I was enjoying Prague and other questions from strangers. People who look like me are a rarity abroad, so people were just plain curious about how I felt. This was nice, but also overwhelming at times. 

19. Loads of stares

The Tempest shares a gif of a group of people staring.
[Gif via Giphy description: a scene from Dear White People as a group of students stare into the camera.]

20. Excitement seeing other Black people

The Tempest shares a gif of two Black men greeting each other.
[Gif via Giphy description: two Black men greeting each other.]
When you finally see someone who looks at you and can relate to your experiences abroad is a very comforting moment.

Now, this was just a small part of my experience. I am definitely very appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to explore another country and culture and learn more about the world. Don’t go into an experience abroad with a bad attitude, plenty of Black women have amazing experiences abroad. But do go abroad with an idea of what you may be getting yourself into.