A Reflection on Study Abroad, Race & Changing Perceptions of the US

Jul 18, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Summer2016_From_Matthew_Ramsay_-_Official_CAPA_Blogger.jpgMathew Ramsay has been an official CAPA blogger/vlogger for summer 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World, sometimes including short video snippets. A political science major and economics minor at Morehouse College, he has been studying abroad in Sydney this term.

In his last post, Matthew reflects on being back home in the US and his time in Australia. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us, Matthew! We wish you all the best!


The journey home from Australia was long and strenuous, but it allowed me heaps of time to reflect and ponder on my study abroad experience. I also spent a great deal of time thinking about what I was returning to, and how my view of America has changed since my departure from my native country two months ago.


Just in the week prior to my homecoming, a black man was shot to death by police in Baton Rouge, a day later the same thing happened in St. Paul, and not even 48 hours after that five police officers were slaughtered in Dallas. Not to mention a suspicious hanging in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia and another incident with a police shooting in New York. The barrage of violence while I was away, including the Orlando massacre, opened my mind to how tumultuous the United States are right now. Australia is so…quiet and peaceful in comparison.

I have also come to understand, as a Black American, there is no blending in. Wherever I go, I stick out like a sore thumb. At first this was severely annoying, but I was able to alter my mindset and embrace this fact. To be stared at as if you are an object or just to be stared at in general can be extremely frustrating. This was the case in Sydney day in and day out. I would get glares mostly from Chinese nationals or just Asians in general. I believe this is the case for two reasons. One, very few Asians who have haven’t traveled outside Asia/Oceana have ever seen a dark-skinned person before. Second, don’t ask me why, but it seems like some Chinese people tend to have a negative view of blacks in general. This was hard to escape from given we were housed in the Haymarket neighborhood of Sydney which is the equivalent to their Chinatown. During the first two weeks I noticed this trend, especially when I was walking alone on the streets of Sydney; it became so prevalent I had no choice but to adjust. I realized early on staring right back at someone who gave me a look as I walked by was the best remedy and I began joking about it with my friends to lighten the situation.


f I were to name something I had to work to overcome while abroad then racial prejudice would be it. It was not surprising to me; however, it was more of an internal battle to remain loving and cordial. I’ve found a smile and a polite demeanor are always the best combatants with such ignorance.

As I mentioned earlier, my views about my own country have changed to a degree. Violent crime in Australia is very rare; besides when I am back home in suburbia at my parents’ house in Sacramento, I have never felt so safe. I go to school in Atlanta which says enough and one cannot have the same peace of mind walking back from a nightclub at 2:00am there as you can in Sydney. The relative safety and lack of violent crime enhanced the study abroad experience. Simply, it was one less thing to worry about.


One quality about Australia that is very enticing is the fact that you can forget that there is a whole world out there. Aussies pay little attention to what is happening in other countries and the news networks report mostly on UK events and the Australian Football League. Even though the land mass is almost equivalent to the size of mainland US, the country very much has a small town feel. I feel that I will miss the pace of life and the leisurely Aussie way.

Overall, I am so glad I made the decision to study abroad and that I choose Sydney as my destination.

Thanks Matthew!

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers