Lady Bison Abroad: Black in London

Teyonna Ridgeway is studying abroad in London.

Teyonna Ridgeway is studying abroad in London.

One of the things that excited me most about choosing to study abroad was the fact that I would get to interact with a diverse body of people. But I couldn’t help but shamelessly wonder, what will the Black people be like there? I was curious to discover what similarities we would share and the things that differentiated us. Since being here for almost three months, I have found that they aren’t drastically different from African-Americans. I have seen people of all shades of brown and women with natural ‘dos and relaxed tresses. One of the only apparent differences is when they speak with a British accent like Idris Alba.

But aside from their accent, there is another major difference that I have found between Blacks in London and Blacks in America. I have had quite a few conversations with Black people in London that went like this:

Londoner: So where are you from?
Me: America
Londoner: Yea but where is your family from? What part of Africa do you come from?
Me: *stares blankly and shrugs shoulders*

I rarely thought about what part of Africa my family was from before coming to London. Many of the Black people that I have met this far have a firm grasp on their family history. Even if they aren’t the first generation to leave Africa, they know which country they come from. I have met people from Morocco, Somalia, Ghana, South Africa – the list goes on. And I always get the same question, “But where are you from?” I know that my situation is different from theirs. Somewhere in time my ancestors were likely brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade. This story goes for a lot of other Black people in America – ones who don’t identify with a specific country besides America.

There is such a large disconnection between generations that I wouldn’t even know where to begin with trying to track my history. But the question that I keep getting asked makes me think about who I am. In the States, I know people who are aware of which part of Africa their family comes from or which island their ancestors resided. All I can say is that my family comes from Niagara Falls, New York because that’s as far back as I can track.

But somehow .. someway.. I plan to change that.

Lady Bison Abroad: The significance of traveling

I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.

 ― Harun Yahya

Teyonna Ridgeway is a Howard University student and Queen to Queen, Inc. member who is studying aborad in London.

Teyonna Ridgeway (far right) is a Howard University student and Queen to Queen, Inc. member who is studying aborad in London.

There are only a few life changing experiences that I have encountered in my short 20 years of living – and studying abroad is one of them. My decision to study abroad during the spring semester of my junior year at Howard University was the best choice that I have made thus far. I am currently studying at Richmond, the American International University in London, England, having the time of my life. This has been such a growing experience – from a professional, cultural and personal standpoint. I was scared at the thought of being in a foreign country on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, knowing no one whatsoever. It felt like I was starting freshman year all over again. But those were excited nerves and I am proud of the mature decision that I made.

Teyonna AbroadThe love that I have for London is larger than the distance between the United Kingdom and America. This is an extraordinary city with so much to offer. It amazes me that a city could be so diverse – with people literally from all over the world – yet be so rich in its own culture. London has just enough characteristics similar to America to make you feel at home but there are also so many things that make you realize that you aren’t in the States anymore. And that’s what I love most. I have never felt out of my element here. I have never had a moment where I just wanted to go home. I admit that I miss my family and friends, but I have enjoyed every bit of my experience thus far and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There is a world much larger than the suburbs of Atlanta or the busy streets of D.C. that I have yet to experience. There are people of different cultures, ethnicities and religions that I have yet to speak to. And, there is a person – who has been a part of me for the last 20 years – who I am just now having the pleasure of meeting.

There are a total of three Black students (including me) who are a part of my study abroad program – and all of them attend Howard. Three out of over 60 students who are in the program. It is an obvious fact that we don’t travel as much as we can. Often times we are not exposed to the opportunities that other races are taking full advantage of. Other times, we are afraid of being uncomfortable or we make up excuses to prevent us from experiencing something that we deserve. While I can’t impact the entire world, I plan to be an ambassador for studying abroad, and traveling in general, because it is something that you have to experience firsthand to understand the significance of it.

Current and future queens, I encourage you to travel the globe. Realize that there is so much more than what you are familiar with. The ability to step outside your comfort zone and grow from your life changing experiences shows your true character. Understand that like the birds who fly South every the winter, you can spread your wings and fly. There is nothing that can stop you if you don’t allow it to.