Sarah Yewande Oluwafunmilayo Akiwumi
Ethnicity - Ghanaian (Black African)
Occupation - Global Education Coordinator
Years in the field: 2
What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?
As an immigrant in this country my first international experience was when I came to the United States and started kindergarten. Then during my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to travel back to my country of origin, Ghana to learn more about my family, culture and history. I also study abroad and did a service learning internship in Guatemala, working with children with disabilities and learning a bit about the culture and education system in the Lake Atitlán area.
How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?
In college I majored in international studies and that fueled my interest in the field of Global Education. Which ties into one of my long term goals of continuously mentoring and encouraging students of color to take part in a global experience.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?
My favorite part has been working with first generation study abroad students. While this can be challenging, it allows for so much adventure even before the student is abroad. Now the student has the opportunity to inform family members about what study abroad is and all the advantages they can gain going abroad. This has a high probability of change in the family ideals about traveling and can even motivate those in the students community to travel. Seeing the joy on a students face when they receive their first passport has been priceless.
What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?
Some of the main struggles I have are centered around finding funding for students to gain a valuable study abroad experience. Unfortunately not all institutions have multiple areas of funding to send students abroad or maintain strong international efforts in the community which can cause issues for access in Global Education. Also fears and misconceptions about global experiences can be difficult to dispel in students and their families. Leading to student not finishing the process or not enjoy their study abroad adventure in its fullest capacity, which is very disappointing.
How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?
My nationality and experiences are international and have afforded me the opportunity to share my story with people from all over the world. For example, my status as an African immigrant has opened doors for me to connect with many immigrant families, international students and first generation college students in this country. I was born in Oxford, England, I am Ghanaian and have lived in 4 continents, so the ups and downs of traveling with a green card, needing extra documentation and vaccinations, are not new to me. I have knowledge about how to prepare for a study abroad experience that may be more difficult and this typically leads to more open and honest conversation with students wanting to travel.
How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?
Global Education has had a reputation of not having enough diversity, but since I have entered the field I have seen a push for more. Many people have also been very welcoming to me, especially when I first came to the field. All I did was reach out to other colleagues and they were ready and excited to meet with me and discussed the ins and outs of Global Education and shared their knowledge and resources. Many of my black colleagues encouraged, advised and modeled to me how to be successful in Global Education and I am so grateful to them for all of their support.
As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?
I see culture as life values and practices established by peoples’ commonalities and identities.
Self care is so important as we live our lives and grow in our professions. How do you incorporate self care into your life?
Step one of self care for me begins with my faith and putting the Lord Jesus Christ above everything. So when worry, discouragement and fear comes, I know that God is fighting right by my side. I also draw and paint for my creative outlet and do my best to move away from a rote schedule. For example, I have started playing volleyball at the park every week and if you know me I am not athletic at all, but moving out of my comfort zone has allowed for more growth and excitement. I am also fortunate to be apart of a good community that is loving, encouraging and motivating, and this is beneficial to my holistic health. Finally, by pouring into others outside of work by volunteering, mentoring, and being part of small groups are large portion of my self care. It is great getting the opportunity to support and encourage others as they find their purpose in life.
What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?
The Global Education field is an adventure that will help you grow professionally, mentally and emotional, but it is not a walk in the park.
Step 1) Prepare yourself to take on challenge and always remember why YOUR in this occupation.
Step 2) Reach out to as many colleagues in the field and have 1-on-1 meetings with them.This will be helpful in your growth and success.
Step 3) You are responsible for what you do in the job. When I first got into higher education I was told to work from “auto renewal.” Auto renewal is a perspective of self encouragement and responsibility, where you are continuously encouraging yourself and doing your best work regardless of what others do and/or how they affirm your work.
Step 4) Get around supportive individuals in the field. It is essential for you to be involved in a good and supportive professional community,. While this may not always be at your workplace, but by being intentional, networking and attending events you will be able to find one very soon.