Three students, three different skin colors, three different accents and three different backgrounds all studying media literacy abroad while enriching themselves in a new culture.
One from Washington D.C., attending Portland State University, one from Egypt who is also attending Portland State University, and one from Washington who is affiliated with Portland State through an adjunct professor of Washington State University. Each one of us is in London, a new destination for all of us, to study the same subject and experience the same culture. Since we come from varying backgrounds, we have varying perspectives and consequently have each had different learning experiences. Here are 5 things that we have learned about the UK from a student perspective.
From left to right, Rachel Jones, Yohana Lewis, and Anna Nelson
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Five Things I’ve Learned While Studying in the UK—Rachel’s Perspective
1. Inclusivity is important
The color of someone's skin does not determine their destiny. People of all races, backgrounds and ethnicities are connected in authentic ways, whether it be through similar hardships they face or coinciding interests. Coming from a predominantly African American community I was not exposed to different races until I traveled not only outside of my neighborhood in Washington, D.C., but the United States. Being exposed to different ethnicities and people who have backgrounds that differ from mine broadened my outlook on the world -- the world became larger. I’ve realized the importance of immersing myself in different cultures whether the people who belong to these varying cultures are the same race as me or not. Their life experiences are different from mine so therefore I am able to absorb information from them and they can learn from me. As I grow older and more culturally competent I realize on a deeper level that just because someone comes from an affluent community, does not equate them to having a perfect life. All people must come together and realize that all people no matter their class, race or ethnicity have gone through something and everyone deserves to be recognized as humans.
2. The varying aspects of my aspiring career
Although in the future I want to be an on-camera presenter, it is imperative that I know how to perform in other areas of the media as well. The need for versatility was made clear to me during a tour of the BBC and from career advice offered by guest speakers. I am now more aware that the presenter has to have strong skills as a writer, interviewer and producer. Not only is it important for me to be multi-talented in the profession I aspire to, but it is important for me to be multifaceted in other areas in order to have multiple streams of income to guarantee economic security.
3. The importance of media literacy
Prior to travelling to London my media literacy level was not as high in relation to the dense history of the United Kingdom and of the advancement of print and digital media. Now that I have arrived at the end of my journey in London, I have gained new insights about the world I live in concerning politics and my consumption and use of media platforms. It is imperative to not be a passive consumer of the media. Being passive means you are not thinking about how the content may affect you or who might by trying to manipulate you. Being an active consumer of the media ensures a deeper understanding of the information presented. Also, being an active consumer of the media gives you the opportunity to strengthen your mental weaknesses and hone your skills.
4. I am my own public relations firm
Branding myself well will provide me with opportunities in different workplaces. Also, having a strong brand will provide me with a solid foundation for the career I hope to pursue. In order to properly brand myself I need to know who I am. I did a branding activity, recommended by a guest speaker, that involved writing down what is important to me. The exercise revealed my three top priorities: giving back to my community and communities like mine; protecting the vulnerability of children; and the importance of self-education. With greater awareness of my main core values, it is easier to identify with employers who align with my brand and values. Also, with this knowledge, it will be easier to market myself and appeal to organizations I am interested in being a part of.
5. The importance of self-education
Knowledge is power. Traveling in London, listening to tour guides, visiting the Houses of Parliament, and learning from guest speakers it is impossible to disregard the importance of self-education. Educating myself will ensure that I am more aware of what is happening around me politically, as well as enhance my media literacy. It is vital to be knowledgeable about global politics because politics affect my day to day life as well as the lives of those around me. Educating myself will give the process of consuming information more meaning. When I expose myself to new information and ideas I tend to remember the content more extensively because I make the information relatable to my life experiences. Self-education is extremely important to me because my ancestors were unable to educate themselves, so in honor of those men and women who fought for my freedom and access to education I recognize the power knowledge has and I take full advantage of any opportunity that I have to educate myself.
About the Author
My name is Rachel Jones. I am a Communications major at Portland State and I come from a low income predominantly black community in Washington, D.C. My origins arise from a dense culture that stems from the roots of my urban neighborhood connecting me to the music, food, history and people within my community. Family, loyalty and togetherness between the black people in my community are the overarching narratives that intertwine the people in my neighborhood. I have always had the desire to travel outside of Washington, D.C. but resources are limited in my neighborhood, so the opportunity to travel is rare. But with my mother’s encouragement, I’ve fundraised and sought out every opportunity to study abroad.The first time I traveled abroad was to the motherland, Africa. It changed my life. Flying on a plane to my roots at age 15, it felt unreal. This first experience ignited a passion for travelling. I went to Amsterdam and Hong Kong and then to India and Peru, becoming bilingual in Spanish.
I come from one of the poorest worst neighborhoods in D.C., but have traveled more than a lot of people who are from more affluent neighborhoods. I have become more culturally competent because of my prior travels and because of my exposure to London's history and culture. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had to see a different world and culture than my own. I hope to return to my community and communities like mine to encourage others to broaden their horizons in the same way. One has not lived until they have stepped out of their comfort zone.
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Five Things I've Learned about The UK— Anna's Perspective
1. The UK is very much influenced by strict media regulation.
Being in London to study media literacy, I’ve learned a lot about the UK’s media laws and regulations. For anyone from outside of Europe who may be coming here to study, take note on the differences of the UK’s laws to that of your own country. It will influence the way you consume news and the level of discernment you’ll need to have when consuming media. Although the UK’s media regulations are very strict and extremely different from what I am used to, I have noticed that they have many positive consequences. Political elections are fairer, publications are more ethical, and the public has a general trust in the news.
2. Even if you’re coming from an English-speaking country to the UK, expect culture shock.
Coming from America, where we speak English and consume much of the same pop culture, I was not expecting to experience culture shock. England is a very diverse country, so even if you don’t expect a language barrier, remember that there will be many Italian, French, Arabic, and Hindi speaking people. England, like any country, has its own set of social rules: always walk on the right side of streets and pathways – if you don’t you will get run into. Be extremely careful when crossing the street; in America, the pedestrian always has the right-of-way. That is not at all the case in England. Expect to eat a large amount of carbs while in the UK: croissants, pastries, sandwiches, fish and chips, you name it, the UK loves their carbohydrates. Most importantly: do NOT make eye contact when traveling via Tube. The Brits value their personal space.
3. Take a moment to step back and appreciate the diversity.
The UK is a beautiful place, both in culture and in scenery. The people, the art and the pop culture all epitomize diversity. Centered in London, I felt like I was at the epicenter of diversity. Street art both for whether it’s for political expression or merely aesthetic, lines the streets of London. It was shocking for me to realize how involved people in the UK are – they are aware of what’s going on in politics across all nations whether that’s America, North and South Korea, Russia or others. Be prepared to learn more about your culture, nation and politics while navigating the streets of London because you will see them through a foreigner’s lens. You’ll also have the opportunity to eat authentic Italian food, a chance to shop at an Indian market, or to browse Islamic robes. The possibilities are endless, and I have found the diversity within the UK to be beautiful and inspiring. I hope that other countries, like my own, can be influenced by the open-mindedness of the UK.
4. Transportation may seem easier, but don't be fooled.
Before I left for England, everyone assured me, “Oh yeah, the Tube is so easy. You’ll pick it up right away.” Well, let me clarify: the Tube is NOT easy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not quite as difficult as trying to learn how to drive on the other side of the street, but it’s not as simple as Londoners seem to think it is. My advice: look at the maps. When in doubt, ask someone – locals may not like it when you make eye contact with them or try to strike up casual conversation, but they are very open to helping you and very knowledgeable about getting around. It does become easier the more you get used to it, but you shouldn’t go into it expecting to ride with ease.
5. Londoners take their politics seriously.
People of the UK are very versed in both local and international politics. Being in England during the highest tension point regarding Brexit, I’ve learned how passionate and well-researched the people are in the UK. Challenge yourself to have a conversation with locals about current events and you’ll learn vast amounts about their politics as well as your own! As observed through demonstrations, campaigns and street art, Londoners specifically (and I would assume the rest of the UK) are very up-to-date, and you should be too.
About the Author
My name is Anna Nelson and I am a Communications major at Washington State University who teamed up with Portland State to study media literacy through CAPA’s program. I’ve grown up in the countryside surrounded by people with conservative mindsets. Through my life I have experienced both working-class and middle-class households. My background changed frequently but my values did not. Despite much adversity, my mother made it her priority to give me everything I ever needed. She instilled in me the importance of education and learning. I took this value to heart and made my education of the utmost importance. Through educating myself, I hope to encourage the next generation to be stronger and more ethical and to support my mother through her life as she supported me.
I have dealt with a mental disorder throughout my life. My anxiety prevents me from doing things normally, and sometimes from even doing things at all. I tried to convince myself that this condition would prohibit me from opportunities such as studying abroad. I encourage anyone dealing with similar hesitations to not let them stop you from pursuing such amazing experiences. Be open about your condition and be open to new chances. Studying abroad took strength that I didn’t think that I had, and you will have that strength too. I am grateful that I did not turn down this opportunity and instead tested my boundaries.
I feel blessed to have the experience to broaden my perspectives and to travel abroad despite my limited financial resources and mental health. Studying abroad is truly for all and I would highly encourage anyone to try it. This trip is my very first time travelling independently as well as my first time travelling internationally. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the UK.
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A note from the photographer—Yohana Lewis
The biggest thing Yohana learned about the UK is: “It’s very diverse—it has more international aspects and I believe there is more opportunity here for immigrants to thrive.”
About the Photographer
Yohana Lewis is the photographer of this blog post. Born in Cairo, he comes from Asyut, Egypt, and is double majoring in science and chemistry at Portland State with a goal of becoming a dentist. He took this class as an elective and is representing his newfound perspectives through these photos.
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From the eyes and mouths of three very different students, there is much to learn about the UK and from the UK. Our key takeaways focus on diversity, as we have been encouraged by the inclusivity London has to offer. Our trio’s own diversity – black, white and brown - was mirrored back by that of the UK. There are plenty of things to keep in mind while you travel, but don’t let anything hold you back from experiencing the UK. It has proved to be a beautiful place both in its landscape and its state of inclusion.
–Yohana Lewis, Rachel Jones and Anna Nelson