Meet Denisha Scott, a Senior at Virginia Commonwealth College, and CISabroad Alumni Ambassador. She is a guest writer, and this is part 2 of her study abroad story.
Thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship award that I received and the amazing staff of CISabroad, I was able to achieve a dream that had been long-set in my heart for over a decade. I was awarded $5,000 dollars in scholarship money from the Gilman and with that I was able to purchase my plane ticket and cover over half of the cost of the program. The CISabroad staff that I was in contact with made sure to keep in touch with both me and my school in order to transfer the fund accordingly without hassle and frustration. As I had never traveled abroad before, I had plenty of questions to ask and each time I had a question, I was answered with plentiful information from the CIS team that only heightened my desire to get to Thailand.
I cannot mention enough how Thailand has changed my life in more ways than one. While there I was able to understand what it was like to be foreign and I took the opportunity to soak it up. While that idea may sound a bit imperceptive to some, it was a concept that I grappled with for quite some time. Living in a country like ours, we see people coming in from all over the world, all the time.
Some people have come for safety, others for education, and others for freedom. It is hard to imagine living life in their shoes; having to cope in a country where no one shares your customs, your language, your lifestyle. It is a concept that many Americans overlook, being isolated like that. I was luckily able to attend schools with individuals from many different countries and no matter how much I learned from them, I never understood how it was to be in their shoes until I was on a twenty-something hour plane ride to a different country, by myself. I landed in Japan first. Here, I witnessed a bit of shock, not necessarily culture shock, just general surprise. While I was waiting to board my next flight I was met with dozens of questioning eyes and even more camera flashes. I was in Asia where seeing a black woman wasn’t common, everyone was fascinated. I was more than grateful when my flight began to board.
I arrived next in Bangkok, only an hour flight from Chiang Mai. I touched down close to midnight and had to spend the night in the airport, something I had never done. I was not sure where to gather my luggage, let alone where I could spend the night. The American in me expected everyone working there to know English, that was not the case. The first ten or so people I asked only graced me with quizzical looks. I don’t quite remember now, but I’m sure at the time I was on the verge of tears because I had no way of communicating with them, and no way of getting in touch with anyone back at home. It was a daunting feeling but in that moment I could imagine how the thousands of people attempting to make the United States their new home must have felt. After about two hours I was able to collect myself and find someone who could direct me to a place in the airport where I could spend the night. I found a spot and connected to the wifi so that I could let my family and friends know that I had arrived safely. I was immediately overwhelmed by how much I had already felt like an outsider and I was had been in a different country for all of a few hours. But my pride didn’t allow me to tell my family at home that. To them I was eager to be out on my own, which was the case, just not in those few hours of arrival. Eventually though, I arrived in Chiang Mai and found out soon enough that the Old City would become my second home.