HBCUs Abroad Presents: David

Meet David Thomas Jr.
Oakland, California
Howard University, May 2015
Political Science & Economics

Hailing from the Golden State of California, David W. Thomas Jr. was born and raised in the City of Oakland. Throughout his undergraduate career at Howard University in Our Nation's Capitol, David has been pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Economics. David’s possess a diversified network and skill set. As an undergrad, he has worked with organizations such as the California Department of Justice, the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, as well as three different marketing agencies, where he represented companies such as VH1, Procter & Gamble, United Negro College Fund, the Coca Cola Company, ESPN, and the 2014 American Music Awards.

"However, there are people in my area who have barely made it out of their own 50 mile radius, or have died around age 18."

     What was your motivation for studying abroad?

     A career goal of mine is to uplift underrepresented and impoverished areas both domestically and internationally. The number one thing that I have internalized on this journey is that I represent more than just myself at all times. At age 22, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel to over half of the United States and 10 different countries. However, there are people in my hometown who have barely made it out of their own 50 mile radius, or have died before age 18. No matter where I go in this world, I am a representation of my family, my community, my hometown, and often times my race. My goal is to continually defy all of the negative stereotypes of the groups that I represent.

     What is your favorite memory from study abroad? 

     While in Africa, I definitely enjoyed the sense of serenity that I felt. I had been brainwashed into the believing that Africans were all poor and lived in a state of anarchy. I never felt as if my life was in danger. Never felt as if my identity was going to comprised. Above all, I actually felt as if I was "home" and not in the cliche "Finally Home to the Motherland (fist pump)" manner of how I've observed some Americans try to mock. I truly felt welcome by the Ghanaian people, especially the men. The most powerful thing that was ever shared with me was from a man in Kumasi, Ghana. It has truly stuck with me ever since. As he puts his arm out and puts it next to mine, he states the following. "Look, we have the same skin color. No matter where you are in this world, remember to trust your own. At the end of the day, WE are all that we have."

What was the toughest thing about studying abroad? 
     I have been treated in many different ways. I noticed that our world has both a positive and negative perspective of black men based on the media.  In short, while in both China and Japan most people that I interacted with either thought I was only fortunate enough to travel because I was an athlete or because I was an entertainer. Additionally, others would just stare at me because they had never seen nor spoken with a black person.

     While in Europe, I only can recall one issue of overt racism. In the Netherlands, I was almost attacked by a gang of "skinhead" men dressed in all black during the day time. Luckily for me, I was in the presence of riot police who were able to ensure that I was safe. This truly opened my eyes to the fact that our world is not as "color blind" as we project it to be.

     Finally, the worst and yet surprising issue of racism that I had to deal with was in West Africa. Most appeared to be very interested in me because they could tell that I was from America, which was not a problem. However, the most disturbing thing that I overheard was how the African people did not consider me as "Black". I was constantly referred to as "the white man" or a "sell out".  How I could be referred to as their "American brother" when they begged me for money, yet be consider less than Black because I grew up in the United States? A month later, I can honestly say that I am still trying to answer those questions.

  How has your experience abroad helped your personal development?

     I have definitely grown in many ways. I've been fortunate enough to travel to 27 states and 10 different countries.The fact that I can sit here at age 22, less than a month away from graduation, and write about my experiences around the world speaks volumes. I never understood why I was fortunate enough to earn certain opportunities. On the other hand, my local counterparts, as well as some of my family members, did not have those same opportunities. Additionally, most of the things that our society deems as "#FirstWorldProblems" are not problems at all. For example, Nothing knowing what restaurants to choose between for dinner, bad wifi service, or having to wake up early for school are not struggles at all. Things could always be worse for our lives. I have learned to be thankful for what I have, because there are people around the world who literally kill each to have just a portion of what I have. Thus, I was introduced to the factors of the "achievement gap" at a very young age. I pride myself on being atypical and defiant to the media's stereotypes for people of color. I will continue to uplift others as I climb.

     How has study abroad impacted your global awareness? 
     As a product of the post 9/11 generation, I inherited a greater perspective of the world outside of the United States of America. Thus, I have been exposed to the injustices of race relations, and discrepancies between leadership, and communication. While being abroad, I’ve learned that the world isn't as bad as the media portrays it to be. Most of all, I have learned that there is more to life than America. The United States of America is called the melting pot because its citizens are from everywhere around the world. They have different cultures, different customs, but when they come to America, they are one, one nation. In order to be an effective leader here in the USA, I believe that one must be sensitive to cultural diversity.


How has study abroad impacted your education and/or career? 

     After being abroad, I plan on pursing a career in Public Diplomacy/International Affairs.   I also have been inspired to study the emerging economies of the near future.

     What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying abroad? 

    Do it! Be atypical. The world needs us, and we need the world. Too often are we all limited to judgement of other cultures and nations by way of the media.  The tools and resources that we have access to today are way different than what our parents and grandparents are use to. Thus, we have the power to write our own narratives for the way we want to shape our careers and lives in the current economy. I recommend that everyone find a way to go abroad. Although I never studied abroad for a semester or year, I have had the opportunity to travel via programs and other opportunities. There is more to life than our comfort zones here in the USA. Apply for a passport, and the opportunities are endless.


How can people contact you for more information?

Email: davthmsjr@gmail.com
Facebook: Dave Thomas Jr.
Twitter: @d1_dave
Instagram: @d1_dave
Thank you David!
Want to represent your HBCU with an interview? I’m still looking for lots of stories! Contact Me!

- The Natural Travelista