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Racial and Ethnic Minority Students

Studying abroad can offer you the opportunity to think about your identity in a new way. Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture, meaning that while you’re abroad you may be part of an ethnic majority for the first time in your life. Also, you could be presented with an amazing opportunity to connect with and learn about your ancestral history and culture first-hand.

On the other hand, we recognize that students of different ethnic and racial backgrounds may have a challenging transition from your life here in the United States to your life as a student living abroad. People may categorize and interpret your race, ethnicity and other identity attributes quite differently than what you are used to in the U.S. There is the possibility that you may encounter some stares, comments, and overt discrimination during your travels.

But do not feel pressured to mask your identity. You may find that confronting and coping with your adjustment abroad can be a positive growth experience, even if challenging at times. Also be sure to constantly stay in touch with your family, friends, and Study Abroad advisor. Use them as support systems!

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.

Tips to keep in mind

  • Reach out to minority students who have recently studied abroad and ask them about their experiences
  • Look at international news sources to get a sense of current political and societal issues in your host country
  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They are available 24/7 at every embassy to provide emergency assistance to Americans. They won’t pass judgment on you and will protect your privacy.
  • Be prepared if an incident does arise, but don't go abroad expecting racism or discrimination.  

Questions you may want to consider, research and ask about

  • What are the cultural norms of my host country?
  • How will I be perceived in my host community?
  • Will there be other minority students in my program?
  • Will I experience discrimination in the country I study in? Who can I contact if I do?

Resources for more information