Laila’s Story – Trinidad & Tobago
Social Work (Women’s and Gender Studies and Peace Corps Prep minors) – Class of 2019

What she would like other students to know:
My time in Trinidad and Tobago was by far my most challenging and rewarding semester during my time at PLU. I experienced so much, both good and bad, and not only learned a lot about a beautiful new country, but also about my self. As a white person traveling to a country of black and brown people with a complicated and painful history of colonialism, I had to analyze the impact of presence and the space I was taking up. My time in Trinidad helped force me to think deeply about racism and the lasting impacts of colonialism, and how they functions around the world and in America. I left Trinidad with renewed dedication to dismantling the oppressive systems I interact with and benefit from everyday. While I should not have had to leave my country to realize the impacts of racism, being in Trinidad forced me to remove the blinders of white privilege and I am grateful for all the experiences I had while there.

Mud Volcano at Los Iros Beach, Southern Trinidad - March 15, 2017

A piece of advice to future study away students:
Study away often gets depicted through a Rose tinted lens, and I want people to know that your study away experience will be life-altering and important, meaning that at times it’s going to suck and it will also be amazing. For example, Trinidad is gorgeous and the climate means that I had the best mangoes and avocados of my life. I also was dripping sweat at all times and covered in mosquito bites and homesick a lot. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My advice to you is take each day at a time and lean in to all the experiences that are open to you. Even on bad days, when you are sticky, sweaty, crying and homesick, you’re learning and growing so don’t be afraid of it.

What surprised her about studying away:
It surprised me how easy it was to feel at home in a new place. Especially since I was on a PLU Gateway program with other PLU students, I quickly found a community of friends. As my time went on in the country, I found my routines and favorite places, like going to Crystal’s roti shop at least twice a week. While I went into the semester knowing I would adjust to where I was, I didn’t expect to feel so connected and peaceful in where I was and what I was doing.