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Race & Ethnicity

Cultures and countries vary widely in terms of how race and ethnic identities are defined and understood. In the U.S. you might be identified by your race/ethnicity, but abroad, you may be identified first as a U.S.-American. In some locations your race/ethnicity may be considered by others as part of your identity and in other locations it may not be considered by others part of your identity.

Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture, meaning that while you’re abroad, you may be part of an ethnic minority or majority for the first time in your life or have to think about your identity in a new way.

For instance, if you’re visiting a country where you have ethnic or racial roots, you may have to consider the local norms and expectations in ways that other students with different backgrounds may not. Remember that in countries with pre-existing ethnic or racial conflicts, you may be inadvertently identified with one group or another simply based on your appearance. On the other hand, perhaps you’ll be considered American first, and your ethnic or racial identity will be secondary.

You can prepare yourself for the situations you may encounter by researching the minority, majority, and plurality racial and ethnic composition of your host country and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations.  Early discussions of race and ethnicity can help you develop a realistic understanding on how your identity might play into the experience in different locations. 

Top 4 Concerns About Race When Traveling Abroad:*
  1. Standing out
  2. Coping with different treatment and/or racism
  3. Being mistaken for a race/ethnicity other than  your own
  4. Finding race-specific products
* from raceabroad for Americans of color preparing to live abroad
 
Tips for Minority Students (from: Racial & Ethnic Minority Students Abroad):
  • Remember that people abroad have different cultural norms and tend to be less “politically correct” than people in the U.S. 
  • The more you integrate with the culture the less you'll stand out, but your skin, hair, or other features may still attract attention. 
  • Research what kinds of contact and relations your minority group has had in your host country. You may also want to research immigration in general. 
  • Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity. 
  • Learn more about other minority students’ experiences abroad. For example, you can talk to other minority students who have studied abroad or find information online. 
  • Build a support network among other study abroad students so that if you do face racial or discriminatory incidents you'll have support to deal with it. 
  • Be prepared if an incident does arise, but don't go abroad expecting racism or discrimination.   

Resources

AllAbroad.us is a website advocating for increased participation and diversity in study abroad. There are sections for students, parents and faculty/staff. It also includes a "Mentor" section with video clips of mentors who have answered questions about studying abroad as well as an extensive listing of scholarship opportunities.

Diversity Abroad is dedicated to helping students of color study abroad with advice, scholarship information, student testimonials and more.

Diversity and Inclusion Abroad Guide

PLATO: Project for Learning Abroad, Training & Outreach is a project addressing some of the issues and challenges ethnicity may play in the study abroad experience for underrepresented students, and providing additional information, resources and scholarships.  Includes top 10 reasons for African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American and Asian Pacific Islander students to study abroad.
 

Scholarships:

Check out the various scholarship opportunities from our website.

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