Race and Ethnicity Abroad

In the United States, you may be seen first through the lens of your race or ethnicity.  However, while abroad you are likely to be first classified as an American regardless of your race or ethnicity. Depending on your region of travel, it may be the first time you are in the position of being a minority. People will likely have an opinion, which they are eager to share, about the United States.

Many people you encounter abroad will also show a sincere interest in you whether it be your American culture, your ethnic culture, or your racial background. There may be people who stare at you or who are eager to touch your hair or your skin. If you are traveling in an area where people have little or no contact with people different from them, know that people may be very curious, especially children. If somebody says or does something that is offensive to you, try to distinguish between a person who is genuinely curious about you or your culture and someone who has bad intentions. You may find yourself in some uncomfortable situations, but try your best to be flexible and understanding.  However, always remember to put your safety first.

Like many other aspects of study abroad, it is important to research before you go abroad. What was the experience of past students of your ethnicity who lived in that country? How does your host country view immigration? What kind of contacts and relations has your minority group had in your host country?

Online Resources

Diversity Abroad - Racial & Ethnic Minority Students Abroad: good questions to ask and tips to have a successful study abroad experience 

All Abroad.us Resources: great information for African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander students

PLATO - Resources to Support Underrepresented Students: comprehensive collection of articles and websites to help increase the participation by diverse students in study abroad