AFAM 497: Course in Race, Culture and Religion in Cuba Crim 499: Amsterdam, Netherlands: Dutch Criminal Justice
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Brian A. Davis

Major: Sociology, Criminology, African American Studies
Minor: International Studies, Civic and Community Engagement
Hometown: Philadelphia

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this study abroad program from the education abroad fair as well as searching through the global programs website.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

When traveling to a “poor” country like Cuba you will notice that you do not have the luxuries you have back at home. In Cuba, my roommates and I did not have a working shower and when the shower worked, minimum water was released out the shower head. We also had to pay for Wi-Fi, which kept me off my phone and connected with the world around me. In America I often find myself saying that I am struggling and I don’t get paid enough for the work I do, but that changed after hearing that well-off Cubans make at most $25/month. I realize I didn’t have a real struggle; it was socially constructed. In Cuba, people were not concerned with trying to impress other people and I realized that many social constructions of gender performance in the U.S did not exist in Havana. The most enlightening part about being in Cuba was being exposed to the conditions that many Cubans live through, such as minimal access to food and water, which forces many Cubans to buy goods in the black market. This gave me a more in-depth understanding of international conflicts and how the blockade has affected the lives of many Cubans.

My experience in Amsterdam was an eye-opening experience. Because Amsterdam is a tourist city I noticed people from all backgrounds, and I saw a huge expression of religion and culture as well. This study abroad was amazing, with various lectures on the Dutch criminal justice system and how it is juxtaposed to the United States criminal justice system. While I was in Amsterdam we had freedom to travel on the weekends so I went to Brussels, Paris, and Berlin.

I believe every student should study abroad because any form of engaged scholarship enriches the student’s college experience and changes his or her view.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I realized that I must take a holistic approach to education. Taking notes in the classroom is what is expected of you, but when you value your education you start to ask yourself questions such as “How does this apply to my life?” You even seek more information about something because you know it is a part of your make up and why you are in the position you are in today. This experience has impacted me in so many ways that I will be doing two more abroad experiences before I graduate. I believe every student should study abroad because any form of engaged scholarship enriches the student’s college experience and changes his or her view.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My career goals are to work for the United Nations, preferably for the UNHCR. From all of my experiences abroad doing humanitarian work this is what I have a passion for. During my adventures on both of my study abroad I completed this summer, I had the opportunity to meet a few refugees from Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan along the way. Their stories were truly heart breaking and were a call to action. I also would like to be doing public speaking domestically and globally; this experience is a huge motivation for that because I want to be the voice for these individuals. So many people want to speak up about their unfortunate and unbearable conditions but don’t feel like they will be heard or anyone is listening. Because of this, I will advocate them anywhere I go.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I believe that the more you see the world, the more you'll understand the world. When you immerse yourself in a unfamiliar culture or area you begin to find your identity, and you realize that many of the social constructs of the world do not exist. You are less ethnocentric and appreciate everyone for who they are and the plight they have to endure to live.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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