✨World Wide Woman [👑] On A Mission [💁🏽|🌍]: 10 Countries [✈️|🗺], 10 Academic Papers [📚|📝] & 10 Impromptu Performances Later [🎤|🎶] ✨
✨”Wisdom, in my opinion, is the willingness to live the questions of life with an acceptance of no immediate answer.”✨ You cannot rely on others to believe your dreams before you do. They are YOUR* dreams. Hold them dear. Go deep within yourself to find the answers.” 🙌🏽❣️
“Just take sleeping pills!”, “Bring a good book to read!”, “Blast your music!” These are the tips that I’ve received from my colleagues, professors and fellow adventurers to enhance my in air travel experiences. YES, I have a fear of flying! I have seriously researched “by boat” routes to each country I’ve been to, LOL! Ironic, I know, especially seeing that I LOVE to travel. I‘ve learned that faith and fear can’t co-exist in the same body so my faith in the process of embarking on life changing journeys, drove away my fear of flying. These journeys have shaped the lens that I view the world through & have been the hallmark of my academic journey in political science, economics & business. I have learned about the political systems of different countries, its impact on cultural diversity & how policy either hinders or enhances the quality of life for citizens. My experiences have equipped me with an invaluable perspective on the factors that influence politics, culture, business and development across the globe. It is my mission to use this diverse lens to initiate meaningful change through public policy & performing arts, in a world where many civilizations seem to clash over cultural identity, religion & politics.
[*This piece chronicles 7 years of academia, travel, music, love, faith & self-discovery! Each country listed includes a quote that captures my sentiments about the overall experience, a brief synopsis of the paper I authored about the country [if applicable], my own musical & dance performance reflections in the host countries & the music that I was listening to at the time. Components of this piece may feel like a POP-UP book while others may feel like a NOVEL [Thank you Leka boo!]. I hope you’re ready! LET’S GO!*
I want to begin with these two quotes [pictured below] because they couldn’t be MORE accurate when it comes to how I did not allow my past experiences to define who I am or what I am capable of. I’ve gone from McDonald’s cashier to State Government Legislative Aid, from Temporary Receptionist to Adjunct Professor, & from urban New York City to suburban Southern California. I am a DREAMER, a VISIONARY, & a DOER. It is this mindset along with guidance from God, my family, friends & mentors that has served as the platform for my success as a WORLD TRAVELER [🌍] , ACADEMIC [📚] & [SINGER [🎶] | SONGWRITER [📝] 🎤].
✨London, United Kingdom✨[🇬🇧]
School: University at Albany, SUNY
Course: Origins of the English Imagination
Sade: “Smooth Operator”,
Kelly Clarkson: “Breakaway”,
The Beatles: “Abbey Road”
Craig David– “Born To Do It” Album [Literally in LOVE with this album to this day💞]
I fell in love with London the moment I landed at the Queen’s Terminal in London Heathrow International Airport [✈️]! It was my first time out of the country & I was also celebrating my 21st Birthday. I had my first drink, fell in love & stepped foot into a mansion for the first time. I served as one of the teaching assistants for the course & led group tours at sites like Buckingham Palace & the original house of Charles Dickens[📚]. When we finished school work during the day, we would go to Picadilly Circus [London’s version of Times Square & the Hollywood Walk of Fame] to explore the nightlife. My fondest memory would have to be my experience at Club Dui, an unassuming R&B club tucked in a side street adjacent to all the commotion. [Shanelle & Clari know all the details if you’re interested, because they won’t be revealed here, LOL!]
During the day, I visited a nondenominational British church & also had the best fried chicken & cheese garlic bread I had ever tasted. It only took three weeks for London to feel like home to me. I wrote a poem that talked about the love stories that filled the beautiful city – the eyes that glanced at Big Ben, the lovers’ quarrels on London Bridge, the historical struggles for power held in Westminister Abbey, & the joining of brilliant minds at Oxford University. This ancient and sacred city that holds stories of Kings & Queens and Duke’s & Duchesses, granted me one of my first experiences in a leadership role & I became a receiver of ROYAL love [👑|💕|🍾|🥂]. On our last night, we enjoyed an impromptu karaoke session, which after a few cranberry and vodkas [my signature drink during the trip] turned into a night of tearful reflections and endless laughter. I performed [Irreplaceable by Beyonce] & [Smooth Operator by Sade], which everyone LOVED. It was the perfect song to end three weeks of culture, poetry & love!
While in London, UK, we decided to take the 2-hour night train to Paris, France! I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see another country while in Europe. The Eiffel tower [🗼|🗺] is as beautiful as it looks in movies. I tasted Nutella for the first time & devoured a French baguette. One of the not so pleasant memories that I have of Paris was the clear divide in classes. In lower income areas, the trains [🚞] were run down & passengers had to open them manually. However, in the wealthy areas, train doors were automatic & the trains themselves were sleek and modern. It was my first, first-hand experience of witnessing income disparities which spoke to the fact that every city has it’s slum, despite the bias depictions in the media. Despite this, the love language of French captured my heart & I can’t wait to visit the city of love again, in the future!
School: University at Albany, SUNY
Course: Politics of Southeast Asia
Rihanna: “Love Without Tragedy | Mother Mary
I had the pleasure of studying with some of the most disciplined students I have ever come across in the trailblazing, progressive & beautiful country of Thailand. Going away to study means something completely different within the Southeast Asian context. I asked one of the undergraduate students, who was studying international affairs, if she goes out to party [🎉]. She told me that she had already made her decision, meaning it was either school or party, but not both. I was very impressed. She showed my group around & introduced us to the best local food spots. I had the chance to indulge in authentic street Pad Thai, which was so delicious. One of my other favorite dishes from the region is mango and sweet sticky rice, which I had on two occasions while in Thailand! [🍚|🍜|🍵] The pictures above were taken at one of my favorite sites, which used to be the center of the Kingdom but is now city remains used as monasteries [🙏🏽]. The architecture [Chinese & gothic designs] was larger than life & just so beautiful. My most memorable moment was our visit to the Gold Buddha. Buddhist worshippers congregated to the historical and spiritual site seeking direction, redemption & healing. Despite my own religious preference, witnessing a beautiful public display of such worship & harmony was euphoric. I attribute my tendency to accompany a thank you with praying hands & a head nod fueled with gratitude, to my experience in Thailand.
Angkor Wat! Angkor What? The beautiful Sieam Reap changed my perspective on developing countries forever. The tour guide was NOT your average tour guide – he is best described as a philanthropist, activist & educator. His extensive knowledge added so much value to my experience at cultural sites. As I placed my hands on the sculptures and pre-historic structures, I could feel the struggles encountered in the past that still run deep in the veins of Cambodia’s people. Cambodia is a third world country & one of the poorest Southeast Asian states. Despite this fact, I can honestly say that each person I met had an aura of strength, pride, conviction & compassion. It gave new meaning to the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness”. Cambodian’s are an example of people who are rich in knowledge about their history, hospitality for their tourists and love for their land. I couldn’t help but to buy as many traditional clothing pieces that I could find! One of my most memorable experiences took place at Angkor Wat [a temple which is the largest religious monument in the world (🗿)]. I was hustled by a group of 10-year-old boys who charged me $1.00 to use the toilet – which was a hole in the ground. Their relentless drive to thrive & make it by any means necessary resonated with me. At the bar – Angkor What?- our party sang & danced with the locals & had an amazing last night. It’s safe to say that I burst out into song randomly throughout the trip, but I remember singing along to the western tunes that were playing, & subsequently being complimented by the bartenders. This night is one I will never forget, because I got to know one of the sweetest spirits that I am thankful to call a life-long sister & friend – Alina Agusti, I love you babe! Here’s to many more 2 hour long tearful bathroom conversations about love and life! Besos! Finally, in front of the luxurious hotel that I stayed in was a swamp & on the morning of departure I noticed a lotus flower blossoming. Beautiful things can grow in dreadful places. It cemented my deeply held belief that although growing up in the sometimes, tumultuous urban environment of NYC was difficult, my experiences have watered the soil for my development into who I am today. Lotus Flower Bomb [🌺]!
Crossing the street in Vietnam is like a conquest, lol! More specifically, the motorbikes tend to have their own agenda & do not yield the right of way to pedestrians. I remember inching across the street in a group of 8, because it’s a necessity to form a human barrier to get the motorbikes to yield. The motorbike [🛵] to car [🚗] ratio in Vietnam is an astonishing 8:1! I saw families of 4 on one motorbike, now that’s dedication! Although the general sentiments were that they were unsafe, I took my chances and went on a ride anyway. I had so much fun racing the streets of Vietnam. Most memorably, I visited the Cu Chi tunnels which was the Vietnam War battlefield – now turned tourist attraction. The tunnels, built for a person no more that 5’5 in height, went on for miles & was both hot and restricting. The soldiers built exits at designated points in the tunnels, which were often discovered and bombed by the opposition. Phew, that takes uncertainty and endurance to a whole new level! On the last night of the trip, I decided to sing & dance at the only club on the street of the hotel that had music [🎶] blasting through the windows. There were people from so many different cultures there, all singing to popular American tunes. My final paper interweaved culture and politics and discussed how they influence each other in the Vietnamese context.
School: Claremont Graduate University
Course: Doing Business in New Zealand
Rihanna: Same Ol’ Mistakes
Zendaya ft. Chris Brown: Something New
Ahhh! New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote! I embarked on a journey to the land that’s home to Maori, Kiwi & Samoan cultures. As one of the world’s environmental and economic powerhouses, my experience in N.Z. fueled my decision to become an MBA student with a global management & leadership focus. At the University of Auckland’s School of Business, I learned how a deep appreciation for one’s culture can influence marketing strategies for highly innovative techniques. A model country for righting past wrongs to cultivate an inclusive environment for all of it’s inhabitants, New Zealand’s moral compass is unmatched. I was introduced to the Wayfinding Leadership paradigm, a blueprint for leaders to fuse morals into policy decision making. The themes of conviction, compassion & courage vibrated throughout the mission statements of the organizations that I studied and visited. I especially enjoyed my time in Raglan, where I gained a new appreciation for agriculture and farming. The vast landscape, pure water & loving animals [🐶|🐷|🐴|🐓] cemented my gratitude for the beauty of nature & it’s role in human development. After 10 hour days, I managed to find the energy to frequent the bars and nightclubs with a few colleagues. A nightclub called 1908, was where I was given the opportunity to perform one of my favorite classics: The Fugees – Killing Me Softly. The pianist accompanied me seconds after I belted out the first musical note. It was on that very night that we met some Maori men who told us about their tribal tattoos and danced with us for the rest of the night! [Titina & Michelle know the full story if you’re interested, because it won’t be revealed here, Lol!] How does N.Z. keep disruption at a minimum and harmony at an all time high during nightlife? Well, I was only permitted a glass of wine per hour and instructed to drink a glass of water before ordering another drink, by a discerning bartender! RESPECT [🙌🏽]! On our last night, we were dared to go on this slingshot ride that rewarded us with a beautiful view of the entire city of Auckland! [Thank you to Drew & Kazu who also accepted the challenge & conquered the NZ night sky with me!] My final paper was inspired by the Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm, in which I applied its principles of moral decision making to the context of environmental sustainability in the United States. New Zealand, thank you for an invaluable experience that has shaped my career trajectory in business management [💼]!
✨London & Bath Spa, United Kingdom✨[🇬🇧]
School: Claremont Graduate University
Course: Exploring Cultural Heritage: Old & New
Chris Brown: Royalty “Blow it In the Wind”
Craig David: Born to Do It “Rendezvous”
It had been 6 years since my feet touched European soil. I ventured to Bath Spa & London to reclaim my throne in the United Kingdom. This time, I studied the cultural heritage of the British through the lens of art sculpture found at museums & at historic sites such as Avebury & the Roman Baths. Baths for bathing and relaxing were a common feature of Roman cities throughout the empire. Mostly utilized for relaxation, the baths were also a symbolic destination for dedications and self- preservation. The cobble stone roads that led up to my hotel along with the complimentary wine, made me feel right at home in the historic town of Bath Spa. Our group journeyed to London to learn about the rich history surrounding some of the bloodiest wars in history. The history ran deep compared to the U.S. cultural sites, whose most prized artifacts dated back to the 1930s [although appreciated equally, the differences spoke volumes about the perspectives among the British & American students on the trip] On our last day, I sang “Halo” by Beyoncé during tea time at a bar in Bath, which was met with applause from my colleagues & locals who had tuned in. I co-authored a paper called – L.A: A City Built on Transport – which spoke to how geographies and infrastructure have influenced socioeconomics & culture. The analysis derived inspiration from site visits in the United Kingdom where geography & history revealed how cultural development can play out differently given the context. As a final note, I met up with old friends in London & danced throughout Piccadilly Circus once again. I can’t wait for my next trip to the UK [💂] – my second home!
Organization: Ghana Health & Education Initiative
Girls’ Empowerment Camp
Kanye West: “Father Stretch My Hands”
Who run the world? GIRLS RUN THE WORLD! This was the slogan for the Ghana Health & Education Initiative’s summer 2016 Girls’ Empowerment Camp. I had fundraised over $2,500 & prepared lesson plans on family planning, self-esteem & the performing arts in preparation for my arrival to Humjibre, Ghana, Africa. As a serve and learn volunteer for the Ghana Health & Education Initiative, I experienced life in a remote village with limited access to the outside world & witnessed intense hunter gatherer techniques. My privilege was revealed to me more than ever! With the closest clinic located a town away, I wasn’t surprised by the frequent deaths in the village. The rituals and traditional clothing colors were both symbolic and monumental. Despite harsh living conditions, the people of the village were filled with light, love & knowledge, beyond measure. Reminiscent of the poverty I saw in the developing country of Cambodia just 3 years prior, the Ghanaian pride & humility that I witnessed was exhilarating. I had to get used to washing my clothes by hand, relying on bottled water & sleeping in a mosquito net, but it was all trivial to the conversations about developing girls’ education & combating the spread of malaria. My experience in Cape Coast at a slave holding ground was truly heartbreaking. I felt an array of emotions from anger to sadness to enduring pride. I can NOT begin to imagine the unbearable circumstances that my ancestors were subjected to but this in depth look at slavery, made me truly appreciate [to a much greater extent] the hardships faced paving the way for us by our past warriors! At our farewell celebration, I left the junior high school girls with a song that I hope empowers them to strive for excellence in everything that they do. I performed my rendition of “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys, because in my eyes that is what they all ALREADY are! To the Kings & Queens in the village of Humjibre, my unwavering love [💞] and invested interest in your prosperity, will always be with YOU!
School: Claremont Graduate University
Course: Doing Business in Asia: Trade & Financial Centers
Justin Bieber: Purpose
Hello again, Southeast Asia! One of the world’s growing trade & financial centers further exposed me to innovation, collaboration & economic competitiveness! Yes, the streets of Singapore are spotless & its people are hardworking and strong willed. Singapore houses several industries [including financial & clean technology] and ethnic identities [including Malaysian & Indian]. As the wealthiest [💰] South East Asian state, Singaporeans are showered with an array of conducive benefits provided by the government such as progressive housing & business resources. Most companies are learning how to adapt to the demands of the instant gratification seeking millennial workforce, while remaining globally competitive. One thing is for sure, although not democratic, the government provides a platform for its citizens to thrive. This disciplined mentality may be a result of the severe sanctions imposed for breaking the rules! This country has found the sweet spot between individual freedoms & government enforcement. Professor Donald Low of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, discussed future aspirations of economic stakeholders & some of the foreseeable struggles. Although rich in business ventures, Singapore is transforming into a creative and dynamic capital for people of all ages to have fun! From the looks of the Singapore Flyer & the Marina Bay Sands hotel , they are well on their way! My most memorable experience was at a bar where a local band performed just about every genre of music. I was so impressed & truly grateful to experience such passion & talent. I was happy to be able to sing on our last night at a karaoke spot that had the best sound system ever! My song selection was Beyoncé – XO, because it summed up my gratitude for such an amazing experience in the dynamic yet structured, cultured yet inclusive country of Singapore. I love you like XO* [💎]!
Sporting oversized sunglasses [🕶] & a wine shade of ultra-matte lipstick [💄], I arrived in Hong Kong International Airport to the melodic sounds of the Cantonese language. My experience was filled with politically and economically charged conversations over red wine at the best roof-top bars. The sky light show accentuated the buildings that both scraped & pierced the night sky. Learning about the cultural, political and regulatory foundations of the government revealed the drive of the current political and business stakeholders who are working to create spaces for citizens’ voices – a concept I elaborated on for the course’s final paper. After the end of British rule, China has occupied and controlled most of Hong Kong’s economic and political affairs. Tensions between people from Hong Kong and mainland China have developed since the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997. The popular interpretation in Hong Kong of the “One country, two systems” constitutional principle conflicts with the Chinese government’s official interpretation. Although Hong Kong’s multi-party system makes it difficult for consensus due to the lack of a dominant party, an array of views are represented. The election of the new chief executive is sure to be determined by a more politically active & engaged group of citizens devoted to inclusion and progression. Having grown up in NYC, Hong Kong reminded me of Chinatown with the addition of authentic dim sum cuisine & tailored clothing designs, only to be found in the host country itself. Thank you, Hong Kong [💪🏽]!
PJ: “Tell Me”
Self-preservation is a priority for me and it’s important to find a balance between professional and personal life. I decided to visit the beautiful island of Jamaica for spring break, with my dear cousin Elizabeth! I grew up on Jamaican beef patties & coco bread, so I was super excited to indulge in all my favorite dishes. My favorite was the jerk chicken with rice and peas served at a stand that overlooked the beach. Although I prefer to drink red wine [🍷], I couldn’t resist the tropical rum punch! The warm & pure water at the beach made enduring the humid weather so worth it. The all-inclusive resort that we stayed in hosted weekly karaoke concerts with crowds of over 500 people [😱]! Locals took to the beach to perform some great hits by Caribbean artists where I joined in! One of the performers put the microphone to my mouth after he heard me singing along & the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it. At one of the nightclubs we frequented, the DJ gave me a shout out after getting people off the walls & on to the dance floor [💃🏽]! I am thankful to the people of Jamaica who are beautiful, talented & rich in culture [🌞].
Call to Action
Yes, I am proud to be an American! America has been the world’s hegemony for quite some time & we are often viewed as the world leader for cultural, religious and economic freedom & prosperity. However, there is a FULL world [🌏]out there waiting to be explored, loved and appreciated for ALL of its glory. There are people with different belief systems & countries with unique forms of government, that are worthy of diligent study and authentic appreciation. There are cultures that can thrive [empowerment > intervention] from the help of developed countries with more resources, and there are values and ways of life in these developing countries that can lend a hand to western civilizations – in understanding business, politics and culture in the global context. Whether rich or poor, democratic or authoritarian, Buddhist or Christian, each country comes with its own unique set of treasures. My travels have instilled in me the importance of developing cultural competency as a prerequisite to achieve global unity [☮️]. It will take engagement and commitment to find the commonalities among all the beautiful people of the world – all of whom make up the DYNAMIC*, EXQUISITE*, MULTI-FACETED* & ENDURING* human race. Traveling the world means embracing uncertainty & encompassing a willingness to have your beliefs challenged. There are many methods that can be employed to build dialogue & connections across cultures. I’ve found the silver lining through the implementation of the performing arts because music is the art of thinking with sounds. Greatness is not achieved in comfort zones, so I urge you to challenge yourself, see the world & create change! “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you so much for reading! I truly appreciate YOU*!
With Unwavering & Devoted Love,
✨Political Songstress✨ [👑|🎶|🎤|🎓|💋]