Written By: Bitota Hearvey
Major: Global Studies
What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?
In choosing my classes I wanted to get a general understanding of the social, economic, and political position of the Caribbean as a region so I took Caribbean International Politics, Caribbean Social Development, Caribbean Festivals, and Rituals, and Caribbean Contemporary Men and Masculinity. Since I’m a Global Studies major these classes helped to cover the Southern America regional requirement. Overall the content of these classes was rich but they were not difficult. I attribute the low level of difficulty to the fact that there was not a lot of readings assigned and the assignments were given over a long span of time.
What was your favorite class abroad?
My favorite class was Caribbean Festivals and Rituals because I learned ritualistic meanings behind the seemingly secular celebration of Carnival. I had previously heard of Carnival and had seen images that peaked my interest in attending one day. However, this class taught me the struggle and narrative of resistance and reclamation that is embedded in the outfits and actions of the people taking part.
Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.
How would you describe your host institution?
CHICKENS!! There was a lot of Chickens–everywhere! Besides that, the campus is small with a lot of open space, with students lounging with friends in different seated areas outside. There is also a smoothie truck in the center of the campus near the cricket field, I highly recommend their smoothies!
Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
There are several student clubs and organizations to join. The clubs that I was first exposed to were the cultural student associations. They have student association for almost all of the nationalities in the Caribbean, and these groups held cultural weeks, hosted many events, and were very prevalent on campus. Additionally, there are clubs more specific to interest or major.
Describe your housing situation.
Initially, for the first 4 days I stayed in what I jokingly call a “half-way home.” Basically, this was a sort of b&b, minus the breakfast, where all UCEAP participants stayed while looking for off-campus housing. During those four days our assigned taxi driver, hired by UCEAP, drove us around the island in search of housing. Me, and the other girls which I had met through UCEAP, found a house where we could all live together BUT we had to wait 10 extra days to move in. So we worked out a deal to stay on-campus for 10 days at a prorated rate. Our 10 days of campus life made me very grateful for our off-campus living. The single dorm room I was in at Keith Hunte Hall was tiny and there was no AC. But there was a common area with a fan and kitchen. After the 10 days, we moved into a house where all 6 of us had our own room and shared 3 bathrooms. Overall, getting situated in housing will not be this complicated for others but in our case, the housing website was down at the time we arrived.
Where did you eat most of your meals?
Because I lived in a house off campus I tended to eat most of my meals at home. However, I still ate many meals outside of the house given that I liked to try new places to eat. The cafeteria on campus is a good way to taste common cultural foods there but also the side of the road food and fish spots are really great too! I highly recommend a seafood spot called Gloria’s that serves really good Dolphin (the fish) and cassava fries.
How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?
A meal was around 10 BBD which is 5 USD which isn’t bad but it does add up! My best budgeting tip is to keep what you eat at home simple. Do not try to make extravagant meals, or buy all the expensive name brands that you are familiar with in the U.S. You will be too eager to try different kinds of food versus making familiar dishes at home. Also everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is cheaper if it is not an American brand.
Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?
Somewhat. I am not vegan or vegetarian but my housemate was and through her experience, I know that there are few spots that cater to being a vegan. Otherwise, there are more non-meat options that cater more to being a vegetarian.
Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
Oistin’s was the food spot to be at on a Friday evening. Oistin’s is an outside fish market that contains various food spots serving the most delicious and freshest seafood, paired with savory side dishes. During the evening time, they have live entertainment and vendors selling really cool souvenir items. Also, this fish market is right off the beach so as the sun goes down you have a beautiful view.
What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
I would do anything to have some grilled flying fish and fishcakes right now! I love seafood and the fresh quality of seafood there was amazing. Also, my favorite drink there (ask all of my housemates) was sorrel. We actually have the drink here too it’s just called by a different name, Jamaica, it’s basically a hibiscus drink.
Describe your host city.
I lived in St. Michael’s Parish and further down the road was Bridgetown where I would often commute to get my daily necessities. In living off-campus I got to experience the local community a lot more. Some parts are very rural, some like in the photo below have shops and stores. The structure is different from in California in that the architecture of the most building are older, like English colonial style. Also, there are a lot of little places for souvenirs and boutique places the closer you are to a beach because of tourists. In the downtown area, you find taller building among, little outside and inside shops that sell everything you need to survive like food, shoes, belts, clothes, hair care products, house item, etc.
Was it easy to get around?
There are 3 common modes of transportation. One is a blue bus that comes the least often and will take you farther distances. This bus is owned by the government. The next is a yellow smaller bus that comes around more frequently and is privately owned. The last is the ZR that comes frequently as well, is privately owned, and is the mode of transportation one is most likely to use. Because the ZR and yellow buses are privately owned they have a guy that will stand or sit in at the entrance onto the bus and try to corral people to board onto there bus. It’s quite hectic, but its an experience, and you’ll get where you need to go.
Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?
I actually felt very safe. When you have your orientation at the University they go over safety tips on conduct on campus, off campus, and at the beach. These tips were very helpful. Additionally, everywhere you go, no matter how hard you try to blend in, people will know you are not from there. This is not a bad thing at all, but in knowing that be cautious in unfamiliar areas, go places with other students, and get to know other students and neighbors that can look out for your well-being in a new environment.
What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
I loved going to The Gap on weekend nights! The Gap is a street of clubs and with a few outside food spots. It’s always live on Friday and Saturday nights, and its a good time to get a drink with some friends, listen to good Caribbean music, and dance. Also, I loved taking the bus down the road and trying out different beaches. No matter which beach you go to it will be beautiful, and it is always nice to have a different beautiful view.
Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
Apparently, Americans talk very loud. No, we actually do in comparison to Bajan people, so I occasionally I spoke lower to not disturb others. Also, people will acknowledge you if you walk past sometimes by saying “Good Morning” “Good Evening” and “Good Night,” and when you enter a room it’s rude not to acknowledge all in the room that way as well. Sometime students will also treat you based on cultural stereotypes they have of Americans. It can be annoying sometimes because not all Americans are the same, but the best way to handle it is to dispell those stereotypes and educate them on what being American is for you.
How did you handle culture shock?
I handled culture shock by immersing myself into the culture by getting to know the culture through student interactions and going to local spots to shop so I can see how locals lived. The more you know about the society that you are in the better you understand that culture and handle the cultural differences.
What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
I absolutely love Caribbean music! I was actually afraid that I would not be able to stand their genre’s of music at social events and now I have a whole playlist dedicated to it. I enjoy Dancehall, Soca, and Reggae. I love connecting the roots of the creation of these genres to African heritage. I also enjoyed the communal sense of pride, understanding, resilience that Caribbean students had with each other regardless of what island they came from. All Caribbean cultures are similar due to their similar origins and because of that they all appreciate and uplift each other’s cultures through cultural shows, and festivals.
Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
One day my housemate and good friend Graciela and I were sitting at the house bored on a Saturday. We both acknowledged that we were on a beautiful island for a limited amount of time and we shouldn’t any second doing nothing, so we did an impromptu trip. We literally got on a random yellow bus that stopped in front of our house and let it take us wherever it goes. It went further along a road that we had never road on before and through the window, we saw places and scenes that we had never seen. Then 20 minutes in, the bus stopped and said that was as far as it goes. So we got off and walked to through a field, and in the distance, it would reach the beach. We chilled on the beach for a while, then left and found a shopping center where we bought mango juice and snacks. Then we went to the bus stop across the street from where we came and left to go back to the house. It was great little adventure!
What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
I was afraid I wouldn’t make friends initially. However the students on campus are very friendly if you talk to them! I ended up making friends on cmaus that invited me out with them to go to places in town and hang out at there place! It is also really funny to me now, but I thought I would hate the music. Music is an integral part of my daily life and even mood, and I was afraid that in being in a context so far removed from the music trends of California that I would be isolated from that. However, I ended up finding it refreshing to listen to beats and sounds that were different from hip-hop and pop and also very fun to dance to.
What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge was allowing me to navigate unknown spaces and social environments alone. At first, I was very dependent on having someone I knew to accompany me wherever I went, which limited my mobility to their availability. I combated this by making more local friends that allowed me more mobility around the island.
How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
I went through a lot of personal growth while studying abroad. Being in a country that was predominantly Black and therefore seeing a lot of Black representation and cultural variety resulted in my having a more positive perception of my beauty as well as an appreciation of the uniqueness of my Congolese culture. I also am able to acknowledge a larger multiplicity of Black identities across the diaspora and see how based on the context of our nation, our socio-economic circumstances differ.
What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
Once students are aware that financial aid transfers over to studying abroad, and that they can take classes for their major or GEs, I feel like the one thing holding them back is conceptualizing the reality that they can really begin living life internationally. So in acknowledging that I advise that students research places and things that they would want to visit and do, and get to know others from UCEAP that are going to your program. This is so that one, you don’t feel completely alone in the process, and two, you have invaluable opportunities to look forward to that you can only experience while in that country.