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Yvonne is interviewing Rihanna about her experiences growing up in a rural area and her desire to explore the world. Rihanna explains that she left her small town and studied abroad because she was unhappy and wanted something different. She discovered that different countries have different cultures and realized how little she knew about the world. Through her travels and interactions with people from different backgrounds, she learned more about herself and others. Rihanna's family, particularly her mom, who grew up in a more diverse area, supported her decision to explore the world. Rihanna's experiences have shaped her passion for helping international students navigate complex systems and limitations. Despite the challenges she faced during her time in France, she found ways to connect with people and navigate her surroundings. Overall, Rihanna's experiences have enriched her life and she finds satisfaction in being able to help others on their own journeys. Hi there, this is Yvonne, and I will be doing an interview today, Saturday, September 30th. And we will be speaking with Rihanna. And I will be asking her a few questions because I'm very much interested in her life. And so here we are. All right, I'm going to pass it on to Rihanna, and I would like to know your name and if you can spell your name and where you're from. Hi, my name is Rihanna Robertson-Levay. My name is R-I-A-N-N-A. And then my last name is R-O-B-E-R-T-S-O-N-hyphen-E-L-E-V-A-Y. I am originally from Colorado, a small rural town in Colorado. Well, thank you. So what I wanted to know is you were talking about earlier about growing up in a rural area, and you took yourself out of a place where you could have stayed in that area where not being exposed to the world. But when did you find out that you have this need to know the world rather than just what you see and what you hear and that kind of thing? How did you want to be outside of the community? When did you know that you wanted more? You wanted to see the world and connect everyone together? I would say my reason for leaving my small town and studying abroad was really because I was super depressed. I didn't have a lot of friends, and I really was just an unhappy teenager. I knew everyone from my kindergarten to my final year of high school, and I really wanted to do something different and get out of that situation because I knew I wasn't happy. So I think I didn't even know that the world was going to be so different until I left. I thought that France would be like America, but in French, which it definitely isn't because different countries have different cultures. That concept didn't really... I didn't understand anything outside my own world. I think partly because I was a teenager, but also because I had only lived in my rural area. I visited my family members in other places. So that was really... When I finally got to France, my French got better enough that I could actually communicate because it was so bad when I got there, and I found out my host family didn't speak any English. So it was just those embarrassing, uncomfortable situations and then coming used to it and kind of adapting into it and rediscovering myself and more about my friends and my host family. I think that was kind of like, oh, this is interesting. This is so different than what I thought it was going to be. When I came back to the States and going to college, I met people from all over the world. It really helped kind of solidify that, and that's kind of, I think, just beyond the village gate sort of thing, like beyond my rural area, like learning so much more about other people and just having it blow my mind and open up all these questions and ideas of like, why didn't I know anything about this? Yeah, I think that is largely part of it. So there is a moment, you know, before you being a teenager, before you going through that, what was the moment for you? You're like, I would love to see how other people live. For me, I was eight years old. I was sitting there in the summertime cutting grass, right? I'm like, I just want to know what it's like to be someone else or in a different person's life. So what was it for you? I think part of it comes from, for me, is like reading books and like, you know, like, I don't know. You have this perspective and you can see from their perspective, but just realizing, and I don't know, like having anxiety and like all those worries and concerns that you have and then looking to someone else and like, like they might have the same thing or they might not. Like, or like coming across people who just don't understand the way your mind works, the way that your, like my anxieties work or my like mental health issues work. And they have no understanding, no baseline, no like concept of that. But I'm not like disturbed that like this is like something that other people live with. I'm just realizing that, like even with my own sister, like we grew up in the same household, right? But we still view the world in very different ways. And so I think part of that is like just, and the more that I know about other people, like the more experiences you know about and people you know, it just opens up like other sides of things that you didn't even consider. Like you don't know what you don't know until you're like, oh, I didn't know that. Like it wasn't even something that was on my radar. And so I think, I don't know, it wasn't like a precise moment for me, but it's just like, it's kind of been growing over the, like for many years now, so. That was very brave of you for saying that, you know, even though you've experienced bullying, but to pick up and go to a whole different country, like did your family ever imagined somebody within their community or within their own immediate family to like be that brave to just pick up and try something completely new and foreign? Yeah, I think, because my mom, so my mom's not from, like neither of my parents are from my hometown. My dad's from the same state, and like he would probably never leave that state. But my mom is from the East Coast originally, and like she had siblings that like lived abroad as well. And she actually made a point of like trying to like take us to things in the city and like to like, you know, broaden our horizons when I was a kid. But, and then sometimes even now she's like, did I make a mistake by raising you guys in such a like a mono-ethical area instead of like, you know, raising you in the city or the suburbs or somewhere else that was not here? Because she grew up in the East Coast and like in like Washington, D.C. area. There's a lot more, there's a lot more different cultures and a lot more people there. So I don't think they thought I was, I don't think that she thought I was particularly brave. It wasn't just like, I knew some of my family members didn't agree with the idea of me going there, but that's my dad's side of the family, so. And my mom, my mom is kind of like a hippie, and my dad's kind of like a cowboy, and how they ended up together I don't quite know. But they definitely like their family kind of personify those sort of things, so. Wow. Yeah. That is so beautiful. So you do have that natural, you know, exploration wanting to, and then to have that stability which what you offer for a lot of international students that come here, not know what to do or where to go. I think that's really important to have both of that, but it's so much appreciated for people like us that come to America, you know, to have someone who is open and allowing, but yet you are doing the same thing by letting us into your home, you know, because each person is a foreign person, you know, each person comes with their own family culture. So for you to like constantly be in a place where you're challenging yourself, but yet you're putting yourself out there and learning different languages, you know, and what's the return for you for all of this? I think for like for my job and like hosting. No, no, no. What's the return for you as a person? I think for me, both of them, like it's to pay it forward. Like I received those things as well. Like people welcomed me into their homes and people have helped me navigate different systems that are difficult to understand. And so that I just, that's my benefit. It's like knowing that I'm, and I don't, not everyone's happy with the help I give, but like to trying to help students with what the options are, like knowing what limits them like the government limitations and then like helping them navigate these complex systems that aren't inherently easy, but they can have really negative consequences. Did you experience something like that? I think that that was such a deep experience that just completely made you become even more passionate. So because each one of us take the route that we do because something happened to us and then that's when we want to give more, right? So the return for you is the satisfaction of makes you who you are and it builds you as a character and you go to bed happy, knowing that it might not make everybody happy, but knowing that what the path you took, the journey you took, got you to a place where you can touch so many people's heart, but like what did that do to you as a whole person, you know, and for your mental? Yeah, well I think just being on my, so like being in France the first time I was on my own, outside of my family's house, in a different place, in a different language, in a different culture, and trying to navigate that and it was really challenging, especially because my French was so bad, like all my friends lived far away from the town that I lived in with my host family, there was no public transportation because it was a rural area, and so just trying to navigate that and like eventually I met a guy who lived in the town I lived in and worked in the town I went to school in so I could like get a ride with him and like meet my friends there. Different people along the way, like my friends who invited me to do things at their houses, whereas my host family didn't really, wasn't always super engaging because I think they're really busy as well, and so, or maybe I didn't fit whatever box they wanted, I didn't fit the students they wanted to have when they were hosting an American student, so you know, just I think things like that, it wasn't like a big event or anything, but we should... Okay, two more questions. Is it because, well the thing is for your experience with that whole thing, you know, do you think it was because the American embassy with French embassy, did they not have a good structure program where they could easily like connect you like with your host family by offering you the directions, you know, or giving you a guide, and what about the school system, like how much they, it sounds like so many different people and friends and random people you have met that went out of their way to show you that kindness, which I can see why you're doing the same, but, and I can see why international, being an international, you know, ambassador basically, or advisor, but like, is this, were those experiences made it more difficult for you besides the language barrier, obviously, you know, to... Um, maybe a little bit. I know that, like, it's not the embassies that are doing it, it's like a company or an organization here, an organization in France, so like students go both ways. Um, yeah. Because I haven't even done hers yet. Okay.

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