I knew it was bound to happen, I just didn’t know when. If you’re a black girl, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Yup, someone touched my hair.
Let me set the scene. I decided to finally check out a new library to unwind and get some work done after school. The outside of the building didn’t look like a library… at all. The building was old and beige and the library sat on top of a convenience store and a nail salon, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked it. Inside, was a beautiful, modern space with everything I needed to zone out on my computer for a few hours and enjoy a new space that wasn’t my apartment or school.
When I decided to leave and pack up my stuff, I heard two little voices behind me speaking in Czech. The only word I could understand was “Prosím!” which means “please”. I thought they wanted the desk I was at because they could tell I was getting ready to leave and the library was packed, so in response, I said “Ano” which means “yes” and before I knew it, I felt HANDS. IN. MY. HAIR.
I felt my shoulders automatically raise in response and slowly turned around. I saw two very excited girls that were about 7 and 10 years old smiling at me. They continued to chatter in Czech while I packed up my stuff and left as quickly as possible. All I could think about was how much I loved this library and how I couldn’t go back there. It’s hard being in another country where the culture is different, you aren’t fluent in the language and you don’t look like the majority of people you’re surrounded by.
Having my hair touched by random people isn’t something I like, especially with freshly washed hair. I hated feeling like I didn’t have control over what was happening to me and was angry with myself for accidentally giving them permission to do that. Something I had to remember was that everything can be a learning experience if you look at it through the right lens.
Let’s be honest, it’ll probably happen again. Next time it does, I’ll be a little more prepared. I taught myself a new Czech phrase that I can say with confidence, “nedotýkejte” or do not touch.
Travel Writer and Contributor
“You’re doing what? You’re moving where?”
Every time I told someone I was moving to Prague for a year, those were the first two statements out of their mouth. Nobody could understand why I decided to move to another country for a year and sometimes, I don’t know why I did either. When I graduated from college, I made two spreadsheets. One had everything on it from internships to grad school to jobs and the other one was about teaching abroad opportunities. It took me a while to settle on a teach abroad program and once I did, I applied, was accepted, and deferred my acceptance for a year because I still couldn’t decide if this was the first, big thing I wanted to do after graduation. I was comfortable in New York, I had a decent job and I was surrounded by people that I loved, but deep down I knew it was something I had to do.
You might be reading this and thinking that moving abroad is not for you. You may be in a season of life where you don’t know where you’re going. You have a lot of options, you’ve applied and been rejected for plenty of opportunities, but you know that you don’t want to move to another country. It’s “too much” of everything- too much risk, it’s too expensive, there are too many unknowns and it’s just not for you.
Let’s see if I can get you to rethink that. Here’s some reasons why you should consider moving abroad.
- Change is inevitable: Nothing is going to stay the same forever. Things are constantly changing wherever you are, in big and small ways, why not experience that change in a new place? You’ll learn two of the best life skills- flexibility and adaptability.
- You’ll grow as a person: It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m not even gonna lie, living abroad is scary. You leave everything you know and have to relearn everything you thought you knew. It’s hard, but is it worth it? Absolutely.
- You can learn a new language: By reading street signs and constantly hearing the chatter of another language, you’ll begin to immerse yourself. You may not be fluent by the time you leave, but you’ll have a good chance at being conversational.
- You can make new connections: You’ll create genuine relationships and learn what life is like for people around the world. It’ll give you a lease on life that you didn’t know you needed.
- Being able to say you did it: It’s not an opportunity that everyone is given and it isn’t taken lightly. Plus, when life gets hard you can remind yourself about what you went through and how that shaped you.
Jelani, Travel Writer and Contributor