"London opened up my eyes to knowing that there's more out there in the world than the small place I come from. Cambridge made me realize that the things you want may come at a cost. And Ireland taught me to be fearless." (Justin, Episode 11)
Justin Gardner and I crossed paths a handful of times in James Madison College at Michigan State University, but sadly we did not get to know each other well during that period. We kept in contact as Facebook friends, and after seeing that he'd studied abroad in Ireland this summer, I reached out to him and he accepted my invitation to be on the podcast.
His first time traveling outside the United States was when he went to London for two weeks to study comparative healthcare. This program concluded a class that he'd taken on the same subject during the spring semester. Saddled with his own fears and the well-intentioned but still intimidating advice of one of his elders, Justin wasn't ready for country-hopping like some of his peers, though he was able to go to Italy with a group of fellow students after the program in London was over.
The Italy trip inspired him to want to travel more (especially to non-anglophone countries), so for his second study abroad experience he set his sights on a program in Amsterdam. But around the same time he learned of a summer semester program at the University of Cambridge, and so even though it meant going to England again, he felt that this experience would look more exemplary on his resume than Amsterdam would. Rather than with a group of students, he went to Cambridge alone as a visiting international student studying political science, economics, and history. Being at Cambridge was what Justin called "a class shock", since he was surrounded by indicators of an elite socioeconomic status that he was unaccustomed to (maids cleaning students' rooms, butlers serving in the dining hall, students carrying designer handbags, etc.). Of all his study abroad experiences, he notes Cambridge as being the most challenging, not only due to the academic rigor but also the occasional isolation of being one of two Black people that he saw regularly on campus.
After graduating from MSU and completing his first year of grad school at Georgetown University, he signed up for a one-week program in Dublin, Ireland and took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Iceland on the way there. During his week in Dublin he studied at Trinity College, did research, worked on a public affairs campaign and presented in front of the Special Olympics organization, and visited the Google EU headquarters.
Now more excited and emboldened than ever to visit new places.
Justin is about to embark on his second year in grad school, studying for a Master's degree in public affairs at Georgetown. Despite his initial fears, after having been abroad a few times he is now more excited and emboldened than ever to visit new places. A native of Kalamazoo, Justin is not only passionate about his own studies and travels, but is also dedicated to helping to increase the enrollment rate of young Black men at colleges and universities. Set to launch this year, his organization Black Boys Go to College Too will assist with the admissions process, mentorship, and scholarship support. Justin can be reached on Facebook (Justin D. Gardner), LinkedIn (Justin D. Gardner), and Instagram (@justindgardner).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Black Boys Study Abroad Too (ENGLAND/IRELAND)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
University of Cambridge International Summer Program (MSU/direct enroll)