Race and Ethnicity
When you study abroad as a minority student, you may find a variety of ways you are received. In some countries, or with some groups, your nationality will be more of an issue than your race. In others, you might be a minority for the first time. Whether or not people in your host country identify you by your nationality or your race, you are entitled to have a positive study abroad experience. In order to do so, it may be necessary to do research about the country in which you are planning to study.
Before you go
Like any student studying abroad, it is important that you research your host country before you go. It is important to understand that some behavior you encounter in your host country will be different than expected. The way you are perceived will depend largely on the kinds of stereotypes and experiences that others have. Realize that the perceptions of race differ from country to country, and plan accordingly. If you know of another minority student who has studied abroad in your host country, talk to that student to get firsthand information of what to expect. There are also several resources and blogs online that in which minority students share their experiences studying abroad. Before you leave for your study abroad program, make sure that you can answer the following questions:
- How is my ethnic group perceived in my host country? What kinds of stereotypes are there?
- How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
- Has my host family housed minority students before? If not, will this be an issue for them?
- Will there be other minority students on my program?
- Who do I contact if I face racial or discriminatory incidents?
Funding your study abroad
See our scholarship page for more information on how to apply for scholarships. The funds from the Study Abroad Office give preference to under-represented students in study abroad, and African-American, Hispanic, and Asian students are in this category.
A nationally competitive award, the Gilman Scholarship Program, aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Awards range from $3000-$5000 and you must be Pell grant eligible to apply.
It is important to go abroad with an open mind, but realistic expectations, and to take precautions according to those expectations. Remember that people abroad have different cultural norms and tend to be less politically correct than people in the United States. Many minority students who have traveled abroad have found that, in certain countries, some people will try to touch their skin or hair. This is normally common among children, but knowing information like this will help you figure out what to expect while abroad. Hair, skin, and other features are likely to attract attention. However, the more you integrate with the culture, the less you’ll stand out.Other Information/tips to remember while abroad:
- If you are abroad in an area where people have had little or no contact with minority students, people will tend to be very curious, especially children.
- If someone says or does something that is offensive to you, try to distinguish between a person who is genuinely curious about you and your culture and someone who has bad intentions.
- Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity.
- 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