1. Do research on black travel in your country
Over the years, more minorities are traveling the world and creating more blogs, Instagram pages, and YouTube videos to help other minorities who want to follow in their footsteps. These resources that cater to the black experience abroad give positive representation about black travelers and Afrocentric destinations, such as Morocco and “Little Africa” in Paris. In addition, they give excellent advice on how to pack for your trip, exciting destinations to visit while in your host country, and restaurants that serve delicious food. Some pages worth looking at are “weareblackandabroad.com” and @oneikatraveller.
2. Bring your own natural hair care products and makeup
In the Dominican Republic, La Sirena is essentially another version of Walmart and is the supermarket where study abroad students will shop for most items. They have a wide range of products from yoga mats to coffee machines, but I’ve found that the variety stops in selections that cater to those with curly hair or dark skin. Although most women in this country have brown or dark skin, an overwhelming majority of the foundations in the supermarket hold translucent to beige tones.
The search for natural hair care yielded better results. I am happy to say that there is a natural hair movement starting in the Dominican Republic, which means that there are places to get your hair done and products for sale. “Cantu” and “Afrolove” are the top hair care brands that I’ve found at the supermarket while salons that braid hair or provide simple wash and goes are just a concho ride away.
3. Racism and sexism are prevalent and easily seen in this society
Unfortunately, as minorities, we have to consider how the color of our skin will affect our travels. In some countries, the response is positive, but others still have progress to make. In the Dominican Republic, racial tensions are fueled by its relationship with its neighboring country, Haiti, and are easily noticeable in society. As a black woman, I’ve experienced racist jokes, numerous catcalls, and various microaggressions as a result of a society that doesn’t accept its African roots and favors Machismo culture.
It shocked me that in a country filled with brown-skins, I feel like I’m studying at a Predominately White Institution (PWI) because those who are able to afford a good education are disproportionately white-passing Dominicans. Although it’s important to refrain from allowing the fear of discrimination to decide your destination, its also important to be mentally prepared and find ways to cope with these experiences. I advise women of color to branch out and develop support systems for when incidents occur. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by other women of color, allies, and trusted figures of authority who have given me support when I needed it the most.
4. The experience will be unforgettable
Studying abroad is an amazing experience and, even though I’ve had some culture shock, I’m glad the Dominican Republic was my chosen destination. I’ve found that there is much to learn about the world through the eyes of this country and there are many who will accept you for who you are along the way. I’ve learned that it is essential to visit other parts of the country, like Samana, which hold the waterfalls of El Limon, the beautiful beaches of Las Terrenas, and provide a refreshing change of scenery for African American travelers due to its unique acceptance of its African heritage. Above all, I’ve seen that an open mind can make studying in the Dominican Republic one of the most rewarding journeys that you will ever take.
Oluwaseun Showunmi is a student at Towson University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Santiago, Dominican Republic.