Graduate school should be a time of exploration, professional development and the development of new expertise. However, being in the same place for 24 months (e.g. a master’s program), stuck in academia is not healthy! While it’s easy to fall for the trap of staying still to finish the work, it is important that you get out and explore–especially Black women. The world is waiting for your presence and movement!
If your graduate program offers opportunities for you to travel abroad, go for it. It could change the course of your studies, open opportunities for employment and professional contacts, and encourage creativity for that next program milestone you did not know you needed!
In my experience, traveling during graduate school enhances graduate study, by allowing you to apply your skills and expertise to new settings. My program requires that I complete a ten-week practicum to complement the theoretical concepts and skills I gain in the classroom throughout the academic year. The integration of travel in my program’s curriculum was very important to me because I sought out programs that focused on international and community development. I actually selected my program because it encouraged students to use travel experiences and previous work experiences to help them understand the content being studied throughout the academic year.
I write all of this to say, I am completing a ten-week practicum in South Africa and I could not be happier. Thus far, my experience has been wonderful, even with all the obstacles I have encountered–more on that in a later post. I am interning with a nonprofit organization in Johannesburg, South Africa (Joburg for short) focused on empowering persons who were marginalized during the apartheid era and are still being marginalized in South Africa’s post-apartheid society. My role with the organization is to assist with their enterprise development center via social enterprises.
I am interning with a nonprofit organization in Johannesburg, South Africa (Joburg for short) that focuses on empowering persons who were marginalized during the apartheid era and remain subjected to marginalization in South Africa’s post-apartheid society. My role with the organization is to assist with their enterprise development center via social enterprises.
I am in week eight of my ten-week stay and I have made numerous professional contacts and insight on job openings in the international job market. Working with communities in Joburg, I have been forced to think creatively and analytically about how to best assist the efforts of the non-profit I am working with. As a result, I have become more involved in conversations with community planners and activists in Atlanta about the social and economic effects of gentrification in the city. I have connected with international development practitioners working on projects that could offer solutions to the unique situations that currently exist in various communities in Atlanta. Additionally, these conversations have influenced changes in my academic concentration and shifted my focus to the job market from international to more US based jobs. This experience has made me contemplate the issues that exist in my country and city, in comparison to those that exist aboard and my role in finding the solutions to problems in those contexts.
Overall, my traveling during my graduate program has refreshed my ideas and perspective on graduate school and my career. My reflection on the benefits of my practicum experience over the past few weeks highlights some of the advantages of traveling abroad beyond academic information gained. You have the opportunity to experience a new culture and try new things. So, travel. Test your skills and knowledge outside of your graduate program, you will surprise yourself.