VCU study abroad alum reflects on factors shaping his experience
By: Laura Ortiz, Graduate Intern
Contact: V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Richmond, VA. (March 2, 2021) — For Omar Crockett, courses at Virginia Commonwealth University, studying abroad and engagement in the local community have provided a unique combination that supports the foundation of his career.
In the classroom
“I chose VCU because they offer a certificate program called Spanish-English Translation & Interpreting (SETI),” Crockett said. “I want to become a legal and government interpreter for different languages and thought this would be a great way to learn the skills and techniques needed for my career.”
The SETI program offers crucial skills to its students such as linguistics, translation and interpretation, research, cultural mediation, computer-assisted translation tools and sight translation. This past fall, Crockett graduated from the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences with the certificate coupled with a degree in foreign languages and Spanish.
“Learning a language gives deeper access to other cultures, helping you understand things that may have an equivalent translation in your native language,” Crockett said.
In addition to the SETI program, Crockett credits several additional courses with strengthening his intercultural understanding and his desire to experience different cultures first-hand.
“In the La Frontera class, we learned about the migrant experience and the struggles that immigrants face throughout their journey to the U.S. and the challenges they encounter after arriving,” he said. “Spanish through the Media focused on the portrayal of Hispanics in U.S. media and how the community is affected by stereotypes, biases and racism which undermines the actual realities of the community. Communicating Across Cultures focused on different ways to experience other cultures while sharing our own.”
“I learned about different ethnic populations, religious groups and language families. The multicultural approach of these classes inspired my desire to travel abroad to experience different cultures and learn other languages,” he said.
Around the world
Omar studied abroad four times as a student at VCU. Locations included Cuernavaca, México and Havana, Cuba in 2018 and Sao Paulo, Brazil and Hyderabad, India in 2019. “VCU supported me by suggesting different places that allowed me to travel while remaining on track with my academics,” Crockett said. “The Education Abroad office kept in contact with me throughout my travels.”
According to Crockett, traveling abroad exposed him to different ways of life, ideas and customs. “Immersing myself in foreign cultures provided me with a better understanding of how the world works and filled in gaps of uncertainty about other communities.
“Traveling also encourages people to diversify their environments when they return home,” Crockett said.
Crockett’s experience abroad gave him insight into how he wants to use his career to impact global communities.
“Seeing certain places first-hand made me more empathetic to global issues,” he said.
“Locals in Cuba sometimes had to decide between either buying food for the home or buying an internet card to contact family. Families from Brazil’s favelas struggle with new policies placed and enforced by their president. Homes in Egypt lack running water and electricity, and have sewage lines that do not work. Growing an understanding of these diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences gave me insight into how I see my future career.”
Crockett is a passionate traveler and his time abroad shifted his perspective and allowed him to develop into a competent intercultural communicator. He is able to communicate in six languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi and Arabic.
“Going abroad allowed me to finally escape the bubble of my home country. Living in America, I am surrounded by a variety of news outlets that promote misconceptions about the world. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to challenge these biases and form perspectives about the world on my own terms. I also grew a stronger understanding of the importance of cultural immersion and diversifying my spaces. This promotes intercultural engagement and development of cultural competence vital to thriving in our 21st-century globalized world.”
In the community
“VCU provides a diverse setting where students can meet people from all over the world, right on campus,” Crockett said. “The university also encourages off-campus engagement through a variety of service-learning programs and courses, such as La Frontera, and the Globe program allows students to get involved in the Richmond community through cultural events, internships and job opportunities.”
“During my time at VCU, I was able to take part in events throughout the city. I was also able to get involved with local non-profits focused on bridging cultural barriers, such as the Sacred Heart Center where I had the privilege of interning this semester,” Crockett continued. “Since Richmond is already a diverse city, students are encouraged to find different ways to immerse themselves in foreign cultures, and I was able to do just that.”
Looking to the future
As Crockett considers his future endeavors, he believes he will rely on the network and community he built while at VCU. “The variety of connections you make at VCU provides additional support to the experience at the university. I have been able to network with people in similar industries and take courses tailored towards my career path,” he said. “I aspire to be a Foreign Service Officer which requires you to have cultural competence and language capabilities,” Crockett said. “Through VCU I was able to develop, practice and utilize those skills on and off-campus, and this has benefited my professional and personal development.”
As Crockett continues to travel abroad, learn new languages and immerse himself in different cultures, he is thankful for the unique experience gained while attending VCU. Crockett and several other students will discuss their experiences studying abroad during the Black+Abroad Virtual Series taking place March 1-22, 2021.
For more information and the full schedule, visit https://bit.ly/2P3EX2F.