HBCUs Abroad Presents: Maurice
Meet Maurice Jackson
Florida A&M University, May 2014
Accounting, Minor in Global Security
Maurice Jackson is a fourth year accounting student with a minor in global security at Florida A&M. Growing up in South Florida, he was always exposed to different cultures and ethnicities, yet nothing could have prepared him for the life changing experiences he would have while studying abroad in both South Africa and Brazil. For many in his neighborhood back home, leaving the country is only a dream so Maurice tries to use his platform as a former exchange student to inspire others to go beyond the borders we’ve become accustomed to.
What was your motivation for studying abroad?
Being raised in diverse Miami, I was always aware of other cultures and dreamt of visiting foreign countries. It wasn’t until I was approached by FAMU officials about US grant money to conduct research that I realized going abroad could become a reality. Thinking forward I also realized just how valuable this experience would be for me and those in my community back home who would not typically have the opportunity to do so. I seen this window as a way to differentiate myself from thousands of other college students, invest in my community and grow as an individual with no expense to me. It was a no brainer from day one.
What is your favorite memory from study abroad?
Of all of the memories abroad, my most cherished experience was staying overnight in the Amazon rainforest. I was able to have my mom and cousin join me for mother’s day week in Brazil where we capped off the tour of Brazil, piranha fishing in the famed forest. Not only had we gone caiman hunting at night in the pitch darkness and pink dolphin watching (yes PINK dolphins) but also we were actually able to eat the piranhas we caught the day before.
What was the toughest thing about studying abroad?
The toughest aspect of studying abroad was adjusting to the cultural expectations when it comes to interaction. Coming from the US, I had to realize that many of the mannerisms we have such as locking bedroom doors and shaking hands instead of hugging can come off as cold to others in different cultures. A few weeks in to my stay in Brazil I was able to adapt and adjust with help from my roommates.
How has your experience abroad helped your personal development?
My experience abroad has helped to better shape my view of humanity and realize just how similar we all are and that we all seek the basic same needs in life. Understanding these basic needs has allowed me to find an underlying and often overlooked commonality that bonds us all together. Being in a completely foreign environment has taught me more about my capabilities and myself as a person. I was confident in my skills to adjust before leaving the country but traveling to a new nation where I was forced to learn the language or risk not being able to order anything from shops (which I was kicked out of a local ice-cream shop my first week in Brazil because no one could understand my order) caused me to trust myself on an entirely new level. Being completely removed from the daily pressures of American living also allowed me to self reflect and clearly understand my passion and what drove me as an individual. This alignment of purpose, skill and self-trust was and still is critical to the mapping out of my life goals.
How has study abroad impacted your global awareness?
Going abroad, specifically following my stint in South Africa has made me much more enthusiastic about following world news in all aspects, not only the tragedies that many news outlets tend to focus on. I often keep contact with my friends overseas and we chat about ongoing issues around the globe and having their opinion is beyond eye opening.
How has study abroad impacted your education and/or career?
Studying abroad has definitely strengthened my marketability as a professional interested in international development. When I am able to explain to employers that I’ve conducted research on bio-fuels in Brazil, had lunch with royal families in South Africa and learned to speak Portuguese, they realize that I bring an immeasurable tangible to the table called experience.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying abroad?
I would tell them to do it. Not later, not eventually, but NOW. There is a lot this world can teach you that you will never learn in a book and when else in life will you have the opportunity to take this time to explore the globe?