For more on what it was like to study abroad in Paris, see my reflections here:
Going to DR was like going home, in a way. I stepped foot on the island that was colonized by Columbus and I got to know the place the natives knew. It felt like I was stepping into a history book. I was finally there. I walked on streets that were centuries old and ate rice and beans all the time!
But being in DR also made me reflect on my own place in history. I met children of Haitian sugar cane workers who made sure that I knew that they were Dominican because DR was the only place they knew. I met a Dominican man, who, after sizing me up, revealed that he had Haitian ancestry. At times I felt conflicted as an American, as a person of Haitian descent, and as someone who had means. I will never forget the people I met and how I was treated with the greatest hospitality everywhere I went, down to the school kids who gave us standing ovations when we walked into their schools.
Going to Ghana was also like going home, in a very different way. I went to a land that I was supposed to know because of my African ancestry, but didn't know at all. There is nothing like the generous spirit of the Ghanaian people that I have encountered. I went there for work but also witnessed history when I visited the dungeons where the enslaved Africans stayed before they were sent on the Middle Passage - before they were shipped to the other land of my ancestors, what is now Haiti & DR.
Den Haag (The Hague),
The experience I had in the Netherlands was like none other. Everything came full circle when I was working to find justice for the people affected by the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, and ended up being roommates with a woman who survived the war. There's so much that's put in perspective when you live with a person whose life and family have been affected by war. I questioned so often why people can be so evil towards one another for the simple sake of having power. Why do we sentence ourselves to a lifetime of misery when we can actually have the opposite if we really want it? Aside from wondering about that, I found people in the Netherlands to be very friendly, and everyone speaks English like it's their second language (which was great for me).
There's a huge world out there, and a new you who can adapt to different environments more easily than you'd expect. You might think you have a lot, until you go somewhere where there's more. You might think you have very little, until you go somewhere where the people have even less, but yet still know how to survive. One thing I've learned from my travels is that there is no absolute in this world, just a variety of experiences that add to the complex fabric we call Life. Your only job is to decide what role you want to play in it, for yourself and for humanity.