December 30th, 2014 Changed Everything
Curtis Tyger is a rising senior at Morehouse College from Washington, D.C. He aspires to use his deep interest in real estate development/management and social entrepreneurship to enhance the economic dynamics of Black and Brown communities. Curtis is a proud father to a beautiful little girl who has taught him more in seven months than his previous twenty-one years on earth.
After 4:20am on December 30th, 2014, I quickly knew that every decision I will make for the rest of my life would have to be for the best of my daughter. Ironically, my first major decision was to leave three weeks after her birth to study abroad in Granada, Spain for four months. Yes, the thought of being a stereotypical black father leaving his child soon after birth raced through my mind, but I knew that I would return with the necessary skills to start our lives. I was scared, doubtful of my decision, and questioned whether I was strong enough to leave my little princess for an entire semester. The ride to the airport was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I kissed her little hands and thought to myself, in order for me to give you the world, I must first go out and know exactly what I am giving you. I kept that thought throughout my time abroad and it led to me having one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
I landed in Spain completely oblivious to the journey that awaited me and to the adventures that would open my eyes to a completely different world. The immediate benefit of studying abroad was my return of curiosity that one seems to lose after early childhood. I reawakened my senses that lay dormant for so long. Despite my deep curiosity and excitement for my new surroundings, I knew that I would use each day and opportunity to better myself for my daughter. I ate healthier, read more, exercised daily, and traveled often. The benefit of studying abroad is the attainability of peace that allows for self-discovery. There is no limit to how far you can explore yourself when there is nothing around you but new possibilities. These new possibilities led to my travels around Spain, Morocco, Italy, Scotland, Greece, and the beautiful island of Ibiza. Each country taught me a little more about myself and forced me to realize that I am undoubtedly blessed for the direction my life has taken.
Not every day in Europe was blissful. I was quickly reminded that even though I left the United States, I was still within the confines of western culture. Many stereotypes that I thought would be left on American soil only sometimes were heightened throughout my time in Spain. As a young black man with locs, I was often met with the common perceptions of being a drug dealer, thief, and a rapist. Even regional stereotypes were tagged upon me such as a homeless gypsy from Portugal or an immigrant that was fresh off the boat from North Africa. As one of only two black men in my study abroad program, we knew that our experience was going to be much more challenging than our white counterparts. Despite the hurdles thrown at me, I spent a lot of time thinking about my African brothers and sisters who actually lived in Europe. I wondered how it felt that their only means of making money was to sell sunglasses when it was sunny and umbrellas when it was raining. When I visited Greece I asked myself, “would Black Sororities still wear their Greek-letters with pride if they saw the amount of sex-trafficking of young African girls in the city-center of Athens?” I remember their sad faces on dark corners as their Greek pimps stood closely to assure business ran smoothly. I instantly thought about my daughter and knew I would love her deeply and unconditionally for as long as I’m alive because I know the world wouldn’t.
After my four months in Spain came to an end, I went to New York to start my internship at Moody’s Corporation in downtown Manhattan. From traveling in Europe to interning in the financial district of New York for a potential full-time position, I can only describe it as a true blessing. I am undoubtedly a better person after seeing the world and more than happy to be back with my daughter. I hope my decision to study abroad despite my circumstances can inspire my brothers and sisters to do the same.