Tiffany Yang ’21 participated in the summer ’19 travel course, “Exploring the Original Mediterranean Diet.” In her blog post below, she covers a spectrum of topics, including her background at Chapman, how she prepared to study abroad, what she learned about her identity, and the value she sees in Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color (BISOC) studying abroad.
Hi, I’m Tiffany, an MS Food Science and MBA graduate student (Class of 2021) at Chapman University. I was the Co-Vice President for the Food Science and Nutrition Student Association last year, where I was able to spread awareness of food industry opportunities. My major influenced my decision to study abroad because my knowledge within the food industry only lies within the U.S. Each country has its own regulations and processes when it comes to manufacturing and development.
By studying abroad, I would be able to gain exposure to how the European Union governs processing facilities in Greece. Greece has always been on my bucket list since I was young. After watching, “Mama Mia,” it definitely was a destination that I could not miss. Little did I know that there was more than just Santorini for me to explore. Being able to go to Greece with other food science graduate students was not something that I had anticipated, but it turned out to be the greatest 12 days of my life. Not only did I get closer to my friends within the program, but I also learned about olive oil, honey, wine, and beverage production in a sustainable way.
Some concerns that I had prior to departing for my trip were weather, safety, and currency. After two sessions with my professors and research done on the internet, I was assured that everything would be under control as long as I took the necessary precautions. Because Greece is located near the Mediterranean Sea, I would experience the summer heat similar to California. However, I was not expecting Crete, Greece to be humid and way hotter than back home. Good thing I brought enough clothes to prevent my body from overheating. As for safety, I was told to bring a cross body bag to have better control over my belongings to avoid theft. Surprisingly, Crete made me feel a lot safer than Athens. The people I met were nicer overall in Crete, which did not make me feel out of place. Luckily, my credit card allowed for international transactions without charging additional fees, which allowed me to pay for most items. However, I did carry some Euros with me for emergencies. My family had some Euros saved up from previous trips, which saved me a trip to the bank for currency exchange.
My Identity Abroad
I have learned that my identity does have an effect on my experience abroad. Sometimes I would get glances from the locals in a curious manner because the way I look and the perfect English that I speak. I understand that they don’t mean to stare or question me, but they don’t have the perception that Southern California is a very diverse location, where I would never feel out of place. I don’t blame them because humans are generally curious and there is nothing wrong with that.
Unfortunately, I did encounter discrimination while I was in Athens. I was walking through the farmers market with two of my friends, one was Jewish and one was Asian like me, and racist comments were made towards my friend and I. Even today I still remember the looks on their faces and their voices in my head. A couple of male butchers were standing next to their stands and asked us if we were from China and then started to speak to us in a heavily accented Mandarin Chinese tone. My friend and I felt very uncomfortable and quickly walked out of the market, but I also felt ashamed of who I was at that point. I did not want to stand out and look different from everyone else, but that is who I am and I cannot change that. Because my other friend was Jewish, and looked white in nature, she did not get any comments. I was definitely a bit taken back by the experience because I did not expect discrimination to still exist in a city where tourists come in and out every day.
The Benefits of my International Experience
My international experience has definitely opened my eyes to other cultures and their behaviors. People can be as nice as they seem, but they can also be judgmental behind your back or right to your face. Not everyone is accepting of different individuals and we have to understand that. The point of an international experience is to learn about what the locals live and thrive on and there will always be the upside and downside of things.
The Value in Studying Abroad for BISOC
Having Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color (BISOC) experience something so unique shows other countries that the U.S. consists of numerous cultures and that nothing is black and white. It is good to have that exposure early on in your life to witness that this world could be different than what you think.
Tiffany Yang participated in the summer 2019 Travel Course titled, “Exploring the Original Mediterranean Diet.” Learn more about Travel Courses on our website. Summer Travel Course applications are due in the spring; Interterm Travel Course applications are due in the fall.