Natazia Johnson's Interview
Natazia Johnson is a recent Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Spelman College holding a B.A. in International Studies by way of Richmond, Virginia. She has traveled to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, and South Korea. Johnson has interned in the State Department's Office of Chinese Affairs and was recently selected to be Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow. She will be attending American University this fall and to hopes become a Public Diplomacy Officer thereafter.
1. At what age did you begin to travel internationally?
- I began to travel internationally when I was 20.
2. Who do you credit for opening up the world of travel to you?
- Mostly, my family. My mother’s father often told me stories of when he was a soldier in Vietnam and Cuba and my father’s mother showed me pictures of her visiting Ghana. My mother would always take me to multicultural festivals throughout Virginia and buy me books about different cultures. Finally, my stepfather, an immigrant from Jamaica, who refused to let go of his accent and taught me different things about Caribbean culture.
3. What countries and cities have you visited? What was the purpose of your visits?
- I have visited Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, and South Korea – all for academic purposes. I hope to go to the Caribbean for a vacation by the end of 2015 and will hopefully be in either East Africa or Southeast Asia next summer.
4. How instrumental was your college in sending you abroad or exposing you to opportunities abroad?
- I would not have been able to have gone abroad if it were not for Spelman. I grew up in a low-income household and outside travel simply could not be afforded. If it weren’t for the scholarships that allowed me to go abroad and organizations, such as Model UN, that allowed students to travel, I probably would not have gone.
5. What have you learned most about yourself from your trips abroad?
- The most valuable lesson I have learned from all of my trips is to live in the present and appreciate what is around you. In America, we tend to get so concentrated on our end goal and everything that worries us, that we tend to look over our blessings and not appreciate all of the good things that are happening to us right now.
6. What have you learned about American culture from going abroad?
- Americans have a steady resolve that is not easy for anyone to break. When we make up our minds to do something, we do it even if the world says that it cannot be done.
7. Do you feel ‘Black’ when you are abroad? If so, is your racial identity heightened or erased?
- When I was in Europe and North Africa, I felt more American than Black. Though I still took the opportunity to educate others on what it truly meant to be black in America, from my perspective, I was treated more as an American because they did not understand the difference from being a Black-American and a ‘regular’ American. However, when I was in South Korean, my sense of ‘blackness’ was heightened due to being followed around in the store, strangers touching my hair or taking my picture without permission, compliments on my skin tone, and constant staring.
8. Do you make a point to identify yourself racially when abroad? Please explain why yes or no.
- I don’t make it a point to identify myself racially when I’m abroad because it’s something that you can see when you first look at me. If someone asks questions, I’m more than happy to answer them. However, in all of my experiences abroad, I have never felt the need to identify myself racially.
9. Do you enjoy traveling with people who identify similarly or differently from you?
- I like traveling with a mixture of both. Sometimes I need that person who is quite different than I am to help pull me out of my comfort zone and, at other times, I need someone who is similar to me to go on quirky adventures with.
10. What do you hope to accomplish in your professional career as a soon-to-be Foreign Service Officer?
- I hope that, during my career, my work will lead towards more children being able to go to school either in the United States or in their respective countries, introducing methods to deter conflicts from becoming widespread quickly, and having the average citizen have his or her voice heard.