by Aleyah Benjamin, FRANCE

I am currently on my year abroad in NĂ®mes in the South of France, and I can’t lie when I say that this experience has been so incredibly eye-opening for me up until this point. As a young, black woman I was so conscious of being one of the few ethnic minorities in the city as it is considerably smaller than its neighbours, and is far from the hustle and bustle of London. At the beginning it was quite hard for me to familiarise myself with the city’s size, but I have gradually come to love the place in which I live and the unique tranquility of it. In regards to my race, if I am honest it hasn’t yet posed much of a problem. This was my main worry before embarking on my journey, but those who I have come into contact with have been nothing but welcoming and accepting of me. I don’t know whether this is because of the people I am surrounding myself with, or more the general ‘open-minded’, progressive nature of people in my area. I put ‘open-minded’ in quotation marks because really, to treat a person of colour as a human being should not require an openness of mind but instead an intrinsic appreciation for the diversity of the human race. With France’s current turbulent political situation and the rise of the far right, my experience as a black woman here comes as quite a surprise to me. I guess what I’ve taken from this is that although racism exists everywhere, and very often rears its ugly head in the most depraved of manners, perhaps it isn’t all bad. I pray that this spirit of acceptance continues, but also that people open their hearts to travelling people of colour like me, and realise that the manifestation of hatred is a futile and ignorant fixation.