Christopher Scott is an alumnus of Clark Atlanta University, where he earned his bachelor degree in Political Science. During college, he studied abroad in London, England where he also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Christopher, like many students, never fathomed living in a different country. However, he refused to let opportunity pass him by and decided to take a step out of his comfort zone. Now he is currently working towards his master degree in International Affairs in Paris, France. Read more about Christopher’s reasons for studying abroad and his experiences in Europe!
Where and why did you study abroad?
Before moving to Paris, France I studied abroad in London, England for a calendar year during my sophomore-junior semesters at Richmond the American International University of London. My decision to study abroad was due to an array of factors that did not necessarily include learning the history of London, England. The primary reason for my decision to study in London was simply to see new things.
In addition to seeing new things, at the time I was dealing with personal matters that were affecting me greatly such as my at-the-time relationship and my commitment to my academic studies. I wanted to remove myself from my daily norms to do some self-reflection and self-care, London gave me that opportunity.
Prior to studying abroad, were there any challenges that you had to conquer to embark on your journey? If so, how did you conquer them?
Prior to studying abroad, I had to prepare myself mentally for being alone in a foreign country. To me this was my biggest concern as I am a family-oriented person. To conquer this fear, I had to see this as an opportunity for me to make a new extended family. So, when I arrived to London I made it a point to join a school organization to give me that safe-space. I became a member of the African-Caribbean society.
In my opinion, since most black-Londoners know their heritage this organization was basically the equivalent of a Black Student Union. Shockingly in only being there for a week, I became the president of the organization and pushed the agenda to discuss pan-Africanism and Global Negrophobia on the campus and the community. What was interesting about this experience was this was the first time I felt a part of the African Diaspora. Being in America all my life, my ignorance of global “blackness” allowed me to meet other black people who weren’t African American (American chattel slave descendants). It took me being in this situation to recognize the shared experiences between the variations of black ethnicities/nationalities.
What were some of the cultural differences you experienced while abroad and how did you adjust to them?Some of the cultural differences I noticed were minor on the scale of things. For example, the extreme use of public transportation, food options such as portion size and the type of food, and seeing children younger than me drinking and smoking. I adjusted to them by keeping an open mind and understanding that my way of life isn’t the only way.
How did your time abroad provoke personal and professional development?
I can honestly say that before London I was one of the students who was more concerned with the social aspect of college than my academic studies. However, coming to London exposed me to a campus culture that was skewed more towards academia than anything else, which compelled me to change my focus. Due to the design of most universities throughout the city and Europe, most students commute; this commuter-student lifestyle limited my social interaction with other students on campus, forcing me to spend less time on the yard and more time in the library.
However, while studying abroad in London I did become a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated through the British Beta Psi Chapter, which is the first undergraduate chapter located in Europe. The notion of Black Greek Letter Organization existing outside of the United States (excluding military bases) alone surprised me and made me challenge my thinking.
When and why did you move to Paris, France?
The reason I moved to Paris was because I spent my 21st birthday here and fell in love with the city. From the architecture to the museums, I was in awe and promised myself I would come back here. Also, as a person who studies the history of the Black Diaspora, global Negrophobia and Pan-Africanism, I wanted a first-hand account of the black expat experience in mimicking influential leaders such as James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and others. Also, the Negritude movement, the francophone equivalent to the Harlem Renaissance, started in Paris greatly influenced me.
How long do you plan on living in Paris, France?
My program is an accelerated program so unfortunately I will be leaving Paris June 1, but hopefully in the near future I can come back and have a piece of my life here.
Would you have ever considered moving outside of the country had you not studied abroad? Why or why not?No, because I did not see it as a possibility. I thought only students with high grade point averages or students from wealthy families study abroad.
What have you learned abroad, now or when you studied abroad, that you would not have learned had you never left the states?
I owe my entire international perception to studying abroad. From job choices to ideology, studying abroad removed the limited lens of only looking within America, and gave me a global perspective.
What advice would you give current students to encourage them to study abroad?
It is important to take this opportunity. It may be cliché, but studying abroad opens your mind to endless possibilities and if nothing else, it gives you the confidence to do anything you put your mind to. It amazes me still that I am a poor, little black boy from Albany, GA who just aspired to be alive and not in jail by the time I was 25. Now I aspire to work for the United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent to talk about those very issues that I once saw as a reality for my own life.
Christopher Scott is an alumnus of Clark Atlanta University, where he earned his bachelor degree in Political Science. During college, he studied abroad in London, England where he also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Read more about Christopher’s reasons for studying abroad and his experiences in Europe!