The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Diversity in London

March 4th, 2016
Jose Diaz, 2015 Diversity Ambassador

Jose Manuel Diaz in London

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Jose Manuel Diaz and I am a third-year in the Tippie College of Business majoring in Finance with an International Business Certificate. I had the opportunity to travel to London, England during the winter break.

I never have travelled outside of the Continental US and Mexico. Being a first-generation student from a Mexican background, every opportunity I have had to go on a trip was usually to visit my family in Mexico. Although, I have always wanted to go somewhere completely different from anything I have experienced before. I decided to, quite abruptly, apply to the London Winterim Program. I felt that a college experience would just not be complete unless one studies abroad while they have the opportunity to and I also really wanted to experience being in another continent.

Landing in London, I was immediately introduced to what is one of the biggest icons of the nation, the London Underground or “The Tube.” The rail ran from the airport way out in the outskirts all the way to the heart of the city, Bedford Place, where we stayed. As cliché as a movie can get, I got to take in a snapshot of London in 50 minutes and at that moment, I knew the next two weeks of this trip was going to be experiential.

Diversity Ambassador Jose Diaz at Stonehenge

Jose M. Diaz at Stonehenge

I had expectations (mostly based off exaggerated TV shows) of England being for the most part a homogenous society with a strong sense of group and national identity, but I was completely mistaken. I noticed I was wrong when our class group went out to dinner that first night. We walked to SoHo (downtown) from our flats and as we walked by the groups of people, I observed the immense amount of racial diversity. Then, it dawned to me that London felt a lot like a European version of New York City, where each passing person has a unique past and different story to tell than the next behind them.

This was very comforting, especially when I would go into the tube and would hear the different languages being spoken in any given tube. It helped me realize the importance of diversity and how nice it is to have it in a societal lens. It also helped me know the value of being a Hispanic, first-generation student. Getting to know the diversity of people is key on these types of trips.

Aside from the great course I took during the two weeks, I learned the priceless skill of appreciating the lives of different cultures. My advice for someone who decides to study abroad would be… take in as much detail possible from your host location and the people living there. Contemplate and look into why that cool building is constructed as so, why people wear different types of clothing, why people do that thing there, etc. Knowledge is power.

Happy travels.

Best regards,