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Students of Color and Under-represented Groups

Students of color and students from under-represented ethnic and racial groups successfully study abroad around the world every term. Many of the questions that under-represented students need to consider when preparing to study abroad are the same questions that all students need to consider (Where will I find the best academic “fit” for my interests? How will I fund my study abroad experience? What do I most want to get out of my experience?), but additional questions and concerns may arise.

You may find it very helpful to talk with alumni from your program and/or your home institution who are from similar backgrounds about their experiences. Check with your study abroad advisor or your AHA Student Services coordinator about getting in touch with past participants.

Of course, every student’s experience is unique. Some students find that the issue of race and ethnic identity has a very different impact on their day to day lives while abroad than it does while at home; others find that the experiences are very similar. Some students find that they are first and foremost considered “Americans” while abroad, others find that the issue of their race and ethnic identity is becomes a regular part of their interactions with locals. Attitudes towards race, ethnic identity and community vary tremendously from country to country as well as, of course, from community to community within a country and from individual to individual; the experience of studying in a capital city may be very different from that in a small university town in the same country, and two students in the same program may have very different experiences.

Some tips and questions to consider as you prepare for your study abroad experience include:

  • What is the current status of race/ethnic relations in this culture? Is there any local community that shares my heritage – and what are my feelings about having or not having such a community available to me? Are there local stereotypes or discrimination regarding individuals of my background that might be similar to or different from what I’ve experienced in the U.S.?
  • What are the implications of studying in a location that is (or is closely linked to) my family’s country of origin? If I choose this experience, how are “heritage” students perceived by the host culture? What expectations do I have of the experience?
  • What are the implications for my experience of studying in a “third” culture (neither related to my heritage nor the U.S.)?

Things to Consider As You Prepare to Study Abroad:

  • Talk with alumni students and research any other possible resources that provide information about the experiences of under-represented students and students of color in your host country.
  • Find out what resources (local community groups, online resources, local information sources such as newsletters and magazines) will be available to you locally at your destination.
  • Learn as much as possible about the context of your host culture regarding issues such as race and ethnicity, race relations, and perceptions of minorities.