Meet Justin Alvis
Hampton University, May 2017 (Onyx 10)
What was your motivation for studying abroad?
I’ve always had an interest in studying abroad since high school after going to Spain and Morocco for spring break. In my hometown, Cleveland Ohio, I did volunteer work at Migration Refugee Services helping migrating refugees settle in America and was a sales associate at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retail store that sold items from around the world. I believe that we are all globally connected in some way and as Americans we have to travel outside of our country to experience different cultures and societies. It is not only important for us personally but it is also important for the growth of our country.
What is your favorite memory from study abroad?
Well, I just started my study abroad journey but so far my favorite memory would have to be having a conversation with a group of Brit-Africans I met in Shoreditch one night. We had a long talk about being black in London vs. being black in America and I realized that there really isn’t much of a difference. The African diaspora is oppressed around the world, however, we have the most beautiful people and culture. What also striked me as a surprise was that they were so much more informed with their family lineage because they were not affected by the slave trade. They could tell me exactly what tribe they were from and had direct connections to the Motherland. It was extremely profound.
What was the toughest thing about studying abroad?
For London, the toughest thing was adjusting to the time change and how big the city really is. Coming from Hampton, I had to get acclimated to the amount of walking and the hustle and bustle of city life. The party scene was an adjustment as well. There is literally ALWAYS something going on.
How has your experience abroad helped your personal development?
I have always considered myself a very independent person, however, since coming to London I consider myself a lot more independent because I am making it happen on my own in an entirely different country. I have adapted to the city life fairly quickly and I move with a sense of urgency. The city inspires you to be better mentally, physically, and emotionally!
How has study abroad impacted your global awareness?
Going back to the conversation I had in Shoreditch, I’ve realized that Americans are slighted with global education and getting an idea of what’s really going on around us. We tend to have a Us vs. Them theory and what we fail to realize is that we are all connected in one way or another. The only thing that separates us is different languages, religious practices, and geography. Before leaving I had so many people tell me “be careful” “be safe, you know they are crazy there” but in reality, I feel more safe and at home here than I do in America sometimes. Europe is so diverse and the people here are extremely free spirited and not tied down by the media or celebrity culture. The police don’t even carry guns! As a person who has always marched to the beat of his own drum, I am extremely happy here.
How has study abroad impacted your education and/or career?
I would like to break into the fashion industry by going into fashion public relations and then eventually working my way into buying and merchandising. With London being one of the fashion capitals of the world, I have already made connections in the industry and I am considering coming back to pursue my MBA here as well. I am employed at the Gap flagship store and am working on obtaining an internship while I’m here.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying abroad?
- Research, research, research. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you decide on where you’re going. Do not pick a place because you think it is pretty. Decide what program will allign with your spiritual, mental, and career goals.
- The European education system is completely different than the US system, so read the classes and chat with your advisor before making any final desicions. Try not to take all of your elective classes while you’re at home so that you can save them for your classes here. You don’t want to be bogged down with classes and not have time to explore.
- Immerse yourself into the culture. If you are going through a study abroad program try not to hang out with the people in your program all of the time. You’re an adult and can hang with actual locals in the city. Just be smart and use your head like you would in America.
- Traveling here is much cheaper than in the U.S. so travel as much as you can.
- Be careful with how much you pack, you don’t want to be overwhelmed with bags and excess clothing. The Europeans live completely different than Americans.
- If you are deciding on somewhere in the UK, save your coin. The British pound is absolutely no joke. Hahah.
How can people contact you for more information?
Thank you Justin!Want to represent your HBCU with an interview? I’m still looking for lots of stories! Contact Me!
– The Natural Travelista