Identities Abroad: Faith T. on Being a Black World Traveler

Written by Faith T.

  • Publish Date: March 8th, 2023

Being a Black world traveler is certainly an interesting experience. 

My very first time traveling abroad was in 2018 [when] I came to Japan on a school trip with EF. I'll never forget when my mom made sure to remind me before I left the country that I am, in fact, a Black girl and people will stare. 

Surely enough, I did get stared at—quite a few times. I even had someone come up and touch my hair; at times I felt like a spectacle, and often I would forget that Black people are a minority. When you grow up in a city, you're surrounded by people who look and act like you—you don't have a constant reminder that you're different. But once you take a step out of that shell, wow does that realization come fast.

I still really enjoyed my time out of the country—so much so that two years later I decided to leave college and travel again with EF, this time with EF Gap Year on a Semester program. I was with a cohort of students from all around the country and I was one of the very few Black people. It's interesting because the Black American experience is already so different from the “regular” American experience that I felt as if I needed to adjust to a new culture before I had even left my home country. Because of that, I learned that being Black and traveling internationally means not only being an ambassador for America, but for the Black community too. I often found myself having to explain the nuances of my culture or defend certain aspects, but honestly, I didn't mind: I have no problem with talking about my culture if I can provide insight and understanding. 

I’m currently studying abroad in Japan and I’ve been here for a little over five months. Every day I catch someone staring, or an old lady comes up to touch my hair; sometimes people don't sit next to me on the train. I notice these things every day, but I also notice the good: people are still kind and curious.  

Celebrating my Blackness through traveling means being myself unapologetically. It means allowing people to stare and knowing it's not a reflection on me as a person; it means letting people ask questions, because I know they are curious and don't mean any harm. Being a Black international traveler is a very unique experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. I love learning about new cultures in exchange for teaching a bit of my own.

Faith T.

Detroit-native Faith T. embarked on her EF Gap Semester in 2020; today, she is continuing her international education by studying abroad in Nagoya, Japan with Oakland University, where she majors in Japanese and K-12 Education. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @FaithisTraveling!

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