My name is Courtney Hernandez and I am a junior at the University of Washington. I grew up in Selah, Washington, a small town on the Eastern part of Washington state and attended Selah High School. I am so excited to be majoring in Social Welfare, because my passion is helping others, it always has been since I was very little. I am also majoring in American Ethnic Studies with a focus in African American Studies. I took this route because I wanted to gain a better understanding of the different people in this world, how they came to be here, what they went through and how they have overcome or are currently working on overcoming those things. I chose my focus as African American studies because growing up, I did not learn much about African Americans or their history at all and I was very interested. I am minoring in diversity so I can have the resources to be able to reflect on and critically think about how race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and age interact in regards to social relations. Some of my favorite things are spending time with family and friends, WATER PARKS, being able to attend college, and playing any type of sport. I also love planning things! I have a lot of younger cousins and sisters that I have to entertain so during the summer I am always planning barbecue's, sleepovers on the trampoline, movie nights, bonfire and scary story nights, and so on. We have a lot of fun:) Recently I've had an intense passion for cooking, and am learning as much as I can from my mom. Some interesting things about me are that I've had my tonsils and wisdom teeth removed (wisdom teeth removed just last week!), I can't dance, but I can step, and I have never been out of the country before so this is a really BIG and great experience for me!
Planning for this trip has been a little crazy. Since I've never left the US, I had to get my passport, visa, and a whole lot of other things for the first time. I have two jobs, but all these little things really added up, I even had to end up asking my family for donations. ~And thank you so much to all who gave to the cause! I really really appreciate it~ The thing that was the worst was getting my shots, I am a huge wuss when it comes to needles, but I got it done :) Now all I have to do is remember to take my pills and put on sunscreen and bug spray and I should be all set and stay healthy.
I chose this study abroad program first and foremost because my whole life, I have always wanted to go to Africa. But that was just the first part. This program is titled "Sankofa" which means "go back and take it" and is also often associated with the proverb, "Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi" which means "It is not wrong to go back for what you have forgotten". This program is also a self identity course. I am African American and Mexican American and my whole life I have embraced the Mexican American identity that I have and kept my African American identity on the back burner. I did so because that was all that I knew. At my school there was no African American people, we didn't learn about African Americans, and I did not live with my African American family. I believe that as and African American woman it is very important for me to connect with my history, my past, and my ancestors. That is where "Sankofa" sets in. I know that this trip will do wonders for my personal development. I have set out a list of things to do to ensure that I will come back a changed person. I know I will be impacted greatly, and I am so excited to meet and interact with our brothers and sisters in Africa.
On last thing that I had to add: one of our assigned readings for this experience is a book written by Dr. Joy Degruy Leary titled, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. I recently finished it and it was excellent. One thing that really stood out to me was a passage she wrote about her visit to South Africa:
"I was the first to introduce myself. I stood up and said, 'My name is Joy, I'm from Portland and I'm traveling with eight other African American women. We're hoping to build and sustain a positive sharing relationship with our African sisters. I am very happy to be here'. I then sat down. The translator began translating what I had said and the nine of us noticed that despite the brevity of my comments, the translator seemed to be going on and on at length. Soon the people in the room started to chant, and then they started to clap. "
After asking the translator why his translation took so long for the little that she had said, he replied, "I told them exactly what you said, but when I got to the point where I said that you were African American women, I needed to explain what that meant. You see, many of the people in the audience are from small, isolated villages with limited exposure to outsiders and they thought that all Americans were white. So, I had to explain to them that the eight of you were the descendants of the ones who had been stolen away. They were chanting back to you, 'Welcome home'."
This really touched me. I can't wait for all the experiences like this that I know I will have. Only 19 more days until we leave! :)