Students of Color
Students of color may experience both challenges and opportunities abroad in terms of host country attitudes toward racial issues. Many students find differing levels of sensitivity in the host country challenging – in some cultures, it is common to give individuals nicknames based on physical characteristics such as weight, hair color/texture, and skin color. This habit can be disconcerting for those from the U.S., but is often not meant to be offensive, and can even be intended as a term of endearment.
Studying abroad can represent an opportunity to act as a cultural ambassador and to educate host nationals about cultural groups within the United States; there is often great interest in other countries in the history and culture of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino/as. This interest presents great opportunities for conversations regarding your culture(s), media stereotypes, and diversity issues within your host country.
While some students choose study abroad destinations where there are very few persons of color, others might choose countries where communities of color make up the majority. Some students may be interested in “heritage seeking” and will opt to study in a location connected to their religious, linguistic, national, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. These types of locations present a different set of possibilities, and may also include unexpected challenges. For example, community members may have high expectations regarding the cultural knowledge and linguistic capabilities of heritage seeking students.
Regardless of your study abroad destination, you may find that your salient identities shift while abroad. Some students find that they are first viewed as a U.S. citizen rather than a person of color, and this can provide an interesting opportunity to explore how these aspects of self intersect. Staying connected with other students of color who are also abroad can help you process and reflect on your experience as it happens.
Researching your host country in advance can provide a better understanding of potential attitudes towards race and ethnicity in general and your own identities specifically. If you are interested in speaking with past participants of color, ask your international education advisor or the Center for Multicultural Excellence. You can also check with your OIE advisor regarding additional country-specific resources.Resources for students of color:
- All Abroad.us is a clearinghouse for advice, information, and mentors to encourage more diversity within study abroad. This site includes group-specific information for African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latino/a students.
- Diversity Abroad.com offers destination-specific information, student advice and blogs, and information regarding financial and scholarships for diverse students.
- If financing study abroad is a concern, see our scholarship page.