Meet Allona Wilkerson

Program and Location:

Spring, NC State Prague Classic Spring; Prague, Czech Republic

Major/Minor:

Graphic Design

Why did you choose to study abroad?

Studying abroad is required by the College of Design. I knew this coming into my program, and became more knowledgeable about what it could mean to study design in a different context.

What did you learn about yourself?

Having never traveled out of the country before, I was most nervous about how to even navigate day-to-day life within this new place and traveling within the city and to different countries. While I did experience some culture shock, I came to realize how adaptable I could be and independent I could be.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

One of my favorite parts of my program, was the number of cultural events or programs that I was able to experience through the study abroad program itself and through some of the classes I was enrolled in. Engaging in different cultures was something that was important to me, rather than being just a student while abroad.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Find a balance between being spontaneous but also doing research on the country where you studying abroad. While it’s good to have a list of things you want to do while there, also be prepared to just explore sometimes too.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

My study abroad experience taught to me to be mindful of global design contexts and perspectives. It’s easy to hone in on your own design process or design values, but to me, to really embrace design is to be empathetic and consider the many perspectives of design.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

My classes abroad were more directly engaged with the culture of Prague. We would take field trips to historical and art museums to learn about the history, culture, and people of the city.

In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?

Being a black woman in Prague, I was often stared at most often on riding the tram to and from the city. When people stare at you here, if you catch them , they will look away. However, the people in Prague, more often than not will keep staring. While this is seemingly harmless, this can also perpetuate a sense of not belonging here.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

While you may occasionally feel this sense of not belonging, please remember that you got into this program just like everyone else did. You have earned this global experience, so take advantage of the opportunities you have while there. Additionally, while I was there, I was able to talk more with my friends who were also in my same program and are people of color. So if you feel as if you need this sense of community while abroad, talk to someone at the study abroad office, or who had been through this program, or do your own research about the racial climate of where you are studying.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

I had support from my friends in my program, that are people of color, where we would just talk about any of the internal or external struggles we were having.

Would you do it again?

I would want to travel to a different country, for longer than the weekend or one week trips I was able to do while there.

This post was originally published in Study Abroad.