For the past month I’ve been living and learning at Carleva Bay Villa, a quaint beach house. Although it is lovely in it’s own unique way, I have been yearning to go back to my city roots (shout out to Temple University and Philly!). Good thing a week at the University of West Indies (UWI) was included in this program. Living in Kingston was a change of pace I could not experience in Yallahs. Kingston is fast and full of city fun whereas Yallahs is slow and full of genuine hospitality.
My bus pulled into the Office of International Student Affairs. There is a similar office at Temple University and I would always look at it from the outside looking in. When I saw international students, I’d feel curious and intrigued by their presence – but these thoughts were fleeting. I never thought as deeply enough to understand the multi-dimensional process an international student goes through while abroad, until I became one. So far, it is a challenging yet rewarding and beautiful experience.
The first thing I had to do was get a UWI I.D. I smiled for the photographer and this smile stayed on my face throughout the week. I compared my UWI I.D. to my TU I.D. and reminisced on the 3 years in between. I remembered learning about the Jamaica summer study abroad program and the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship Program my second semester as a Freshman. Back then, I made it my long term goal to be accepted into both programs, and here I am.
After getting my I.D., I attended lectures and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Michael Witter, Elizabeth Ward, and Yolanda Paul. On Wednesday I met Dr. Witter. He is one of the Caribbean’s best experts on the political economy. His lecture was about globalization and I learned that Jamaica and the Caribbean were at the very beginning of the global economy. Before the Caribbean was colonized and made into producers of sugar using slave labor, there was no global economy. The next day I met Mrs. Ward. She is the Chairman of the Board at The Violence Prevention Alliance. Mrs. Ward takes a unique stance in Public Health by focusing on the third leading cause of death in Jamaica: Violence. She started youth programs throughout Jamaica so I asked her advice on what I could implement at my pro-social skills group. Lastly, I met Professor Paul on Friday. She spoke about gender issues in Jamaica and brought her colleague, Laurel, a male-to-female transgendered woman. It was very hard for me to hear what it is like to be transgendered in Jamaica. In short, the transgendered community is in hiding because of the burden that comes along with being transgendered. I asked her, “Why don’t you move to another country that is more supporting of the LGBT community?” She responded, “Because my work here is not done and I need to keep fighting for my rights.” Hearing all these lectures gave me a better understanding of the economic, social, and political areas of Jamaica.
Through these lectures, I experienced glimpses of what it is like to be a student at UWI. So what does a typical UWI college student’s social life look like? In order to get the real experience, I asked other UWI students for suggestions. To summarize my fun filled week, I danced to reggae and dancehall, ate ice cream at the first female Jamaican millionaire’s mansion (Devon House), bought souvenirs at the craft market, walked amongst national hero monuments, toured Bob Marley’s house, drank refreshing margaritas and ate lobster overlooking cerulean blue waters, and jet-skied to Lime Cay Island.
Overall, I had an unforgettable experience. I met so many Jamaicans that enriched my study abroad experience. I may be a proud TU student, but UWI has a piece of my heart now.