BCA Student Blog

Body Positivity while Studying Abroad

body positivityBody positivity has caused a lot of fluttering and talking amongst different communities. Everyone has a different definition of body positivity that shares their opinions on the subject, so I feel like the most poignant way to start this is to give you my definition.

Body Positivity: To be aware of your body, to give it what it deserves and to love yourself at any weight, height or other descriptor. To change yourself as only you see fit, not to please others. To live for yourself in this body, no matter its level of ability.

I find that body positivity helps eliminate the voice in your head that keeps you from wearing your favorite pair of jeans, because it says that ‘you’re too fat’, or ‘if you wear that outfit in public, people will whisper and laugh at you’. By accepting your body, that voice loses a lot of power over you.

Before Going Abroad

body positivityI was pretty body positive before studying abroad. However, as both a plus size woman, who is 6’ 3”, I always felt like there was something that I could do to alter my physical appearance to make life easier for me. That was before I discovered the body positivity movement and realized that if I wanted to change, that was fine, but not if I wanted to change for someone else.

Stepping out of my comfort zone and flying to New Zealand, even with body positivity was nerve-racking. I always have this fear anytime I meet new people, that they will reject me on site. It’s a chip on my shoulder I hope to eventually ditch. I feared that everyone else would be beautiful and athletic, that they prepped for this trip with gym time, that I would just be a burden to the group as a whole and that for that, I would be frowned upon.

Perhaps even more preposterously, I felt that I might just be the only fat girl on campus once classes started, which is utterly insane. Even knowing that, I was still nervous about the first day, that somehow my body and my existence would cause laughter and whispers and heaven forbid the desk hit my stomach as small desks often do.

Body Positivity Abroad

body positivityBut none of that happened, no one laughed or rejected me based on my appearance, no one discredited me on sight. And my body has carried me up hills, over dunes, across waterfalls and suspension bridges, through caves, and on a scavenger hunt through Dunedin, this beautiful hilly city.

At no point was I unable to complete an activity everyone else did, there are other fat people on campus and I can comfortably sit at a desk. My balance has gotten better and I love my body even more now for all the things it helped me see. And I wouldn’t know any of this, I wouldn’t have seen any of it if I had decided that I was too big or was going to be a burden, before I applied, before I stepped out of my comfort zone and started what is sure to be one of the most memorable adventures I will go on.

Feeling Empowered

By studying abroad, I’ve expanded not only my comfort zone, but also the things I know I can do. Before this a three hour hike was out of the question. There’s no way I would have even thought about going. Now I know I can achieve that, I can do so much more. My body can make it happen. Even if by society’s standards it is flawed, even if that little voice tries to tell me that I can’t, I know I can. I did.

This blog is dedicated to my thunder thighs and Sasquatch feet, without them none of this would have been possible.

body positivityAbout the Author – Alaina Lewis, Spring 2017 BCA Dunedin, New Zealand Student

I am a senior biology chemistry major from Manchester University. My hometown is Richmond, Indiana. I have wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember and this is a dream come true. While I am studying abroad, the rest of my class will graduate. My degree will be waiting for me back in Northern Indiana.

Body Positivity

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The views and opinions expressed in these blog entries are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of BCA Study Abroad, the organization's staff, and/or other contributors to this website.