HBCUs Abroad Presents: Quamisha

Meet Quamisha Desroches
 Poughkeepsie, New York
Spelman College, May 201
BA in International Studies

Her name is Quamisha Desroches, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York. She is a Spelman College Alumna, Class of 2013, with a Bachelors of Arts degree in International Studies. She currently serves as a Peace Corps Health Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. In addition to this international experience, she has travelled to Costa Rica, Haiti, and South Africa. Her purpose and life's vision is to become a Pediatrician and elevate youth through the creation of a revolutionary non-profit. "I believe that service and travel are pivotal to my journey, and with each venture, I reveal a new layer or self and consciousness." 

Anita Desai said it most beautifully, "Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow."

What was your motivation for studying abroad?
I went abroad to South Africa to intern and mentor at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls as a part of the commencement of a pipeline between Spelman College and OWLAG. It was a requirement with my major that I study abroad; therefore, I was accepted into an SIT study abroad program in Durban, South Africa and I was offered a full scholarship. However, this opportunity at OWLAG presented itself 2 weeks before I had to make a non-refundable deposit to the SIT program and accept my scholarship. Although I knew I would not receive credits toward my major and there was always the possibility that I would not be selected as an intern, I went out on a leap of faith and declined my SIT offer. I had this feeling that interning at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls would be a more rewarding and positive experience than the other. Needless to say, I was offered the position as an intern at OWLAG and a mentor to the 69 grade 12 girls- an experience that I would never change for the world!

Me and some of the grade 12 girls at our pampering event. At this station we played a really fun game! The yoga ball was full of and array of questions. When someone caught the ball, wherever her right thumb landed, she had to truthfully answer that question. 

What is your favorite memory from study abroad? 
My favorite memory is from the Friday before I left the Academy. We planned a top-notch fashion show for all of the girls. There were models, performances, great hosts, chocolate fountains, VIP tables, and a whole bunch of other greatness. Once the show finished, I remember a small group of my “little sisters,” as I call them, walked me around campus saying that the dance teacher needed me to do something. After walking around for about 10 minutes in confusion, they led me back to the Senior Residence Hall, where all 69 of my “sissies” waited to surprise me. Some girls gave speeches, sang, retold memories that we had built, and most importantly- it was a time of reconnection and reflection before I left. At that moment I realized that despite some of the challenges and cultural conflicts I faced, my life was forever changed. As we laughed and cried together, images flashed through my eyes of playing truth or dare, eating tons of grilled chicken feet, doing wake up calls in the morning, eating “colored” cookies (inside joke), and spending countless hours flat-ironing hair before vacations- these girls were really my sisters! I will never forget that moment, and even thinking about it makes me recall that night when they sang in loud voices, “Miiisha, Miiiiiiissshhhaaaaa…” (*Sigh*… I really miss them!)

This was my last Friday night in South Africa. At the end of the fashion show event, a group of girls called me up to do a South African House dance (hlokoloza). All of the girls were so surprised that I could actually do it!

What was the toughest thing about studying abroad?
 The toughest thing was witnessing how hard some young people abroad work as they compare themselves amongst an “American standard.” The girls at the Academy are seriously very intelligent and talented. I remember talking with a student about her work load and extracurricular activities. She told me that she worked so hard because American students do just the same. There was so much pressure! In the United States, sometimes we take education for granted and we fail to realize the sacrifices some people make in the name of it. Some students have the weight of their entire family on them; at 17 and 18 years old, those are heavy loads to carry.

"Silly faces" with a few of my sistahs!

How has your experience abroad helped your personal development?
My experience at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls taught me to always be a dreamer, lover, and hard-worker. Every day I looked at those girls who came from not-so-good backgrounds, and although some days they grew weary, they never stopped dreaming! To be able to look beyond your past circumstances and envision greatness down your path, that is power. I learned to open my heart to a group of young ladies (even when I did not know how they would receive). My experience revealed to me that when we work hard, despite the odds stacked against us, and when we dream and love- change, growth, positivity, lifelong relationships, and opportunities come our way!

Learning how to play steel drums at Inanda Seminary (one of the oldest schools for girls in South Africa).

How has study abroad impacted your global awareness?
Being abroad has developed and enhanced my global awareness immensely. I grasped that no matter how different our worlds, cultures, and ideas may be- we are all interconnected and our purposes are inextricably bound with one another. Also, living in South Africa for that short time and experiencing such diversity helped me to dispel many myths about “Africa” and its people. Very often we are closed-minded and misled by media; so it was great to experience a small part of the continent for myself.

At OWLAG, we always had a ton of events (This was a braai). Here, are 3 of the students grilling chicken feet. Yum Yuuummm

How has study abroad impacted your education and/or career?
Study abroad has ignited a passion in me for travel and improving the lives of youth; I will travel for the rest of my life! In fact, I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Most importantly, my journey at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls exposed me to the idea that when you give back and invest in the lives of young people who are “written off” by society, they too, can be great! Everyone deserves an environment that nurtures and cultivates the mind and one’s gifts. When we make these opportunities available for youth in underserved communities, we not only give them permission and the means to flourish, we also inadvertently contribute to the positive development of communities and a country at large. All of the lessons I gained at this institution are being used in the construction of my non-profit organization that will begin in the year 2020. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying abroad?
My sissy Lindiwe sporting the Spelman gear <3

Do it! There is a world of discovery out there with your name on it! Take that leap and broaden your horizons, expand your mind, and rediscover your life’s purpose. Is it difficult? Not really. Is it scary? At times. Will you feel lonely? Maybe. Is it worth it? Most certainly! Step out of your comfort zone and study abroad in a place you have always dreamed of visiting, but never had the means to do so. It is in the times of discomfort where we grow into our true selves. If we spend our entire lives running from and avoiding the things we are afraid of, we never do much of anything! So, if you are worried, doubtful, indifferent, misinformed, or confused- just wipe all of those thoughts away and know that studying abroad will be one of the best decisions you make during your college matriculation. Besides, the world needs to see more beautiful black faces like yours ☺

I also had the opportunity to volunteer at an HIV children's home every week. These are 2 precious little girls that wanted a picture.
How can people contact you for more information?  
Email: Qdesroch@gmail.com
Website/Blog: Quamishadesroches.blogspot.com
Facebook: Quamisha Desroches
Instagram: Brickhouse_13

This was right after I got stung by a Bluebottle jellyfish. I was too angry to cry. Locals told me that if pee'd on myself, the stinging would be less painful.

Thank you Quamisha!
Want to represent your HBCU with an interview? I’m still looking for lots of stories! Contact Me!

-The Natural Travelista