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Racial Identity and Ethnicity Abroad

According to the 2019 IIE Open Doors Report, the proportion of under-represented students studying abroad in the U.S. has increased over the past ten years and 30 percent of students who went abroad during 2018-2019 identified as U.S. racial minorities. Some common concerns held by racial minority students going abroad include perceptions of race in the host country, personal safety, and financial burdens, among others.  

As you start your preparation for study abroad, it is important to consider important questions and reflect on differences you may experience. By starting these conversations early, you can develop a realistic understanding of your host country and can reflect on how race or ethnicity may be experienced, viewed, and understood differently abroad.  
 
Some questions to ask yourself before going abroad might include: 
  • What universal or local stereotypes exist that could affect how my ethnic group, race of other aspect of my identity may be perceived in my host country? 
  • What are my preconceived notions about people in my host country? Are they valid? 
  • How should I react if I find something to be offensive? 
  • If someone asks something that I perceive as insensitive, does that mean they have bad intentions or are they just curious and inquiring in a way that may be ok in their culture? 
  • What can I do to influence the way people of my ethnicity are perceived by my host country? 
  • How will my being a member of a majority or a minority group in my home country influence my experience abroad? 
  • Does my program have support staff who will understand and help me through any racial or discriminatory incident I may face?  
  • Do I have any friends or peers at my school whom I can talk to about diversity abroad who also share my background and have already studied abroad? 
  • Are there any students from my host campus on my campus whom I can talk to? 
Source: Diversity Abroad, Why You Should Go Abroad, Your Guide to Going Abroad  

Additional Resources 
 
All Abroad 
This organization provides resources to help find funding opportunities, information about making study abroad support career development, reasons to study abroad, information to support diversity in study abroad, and information about discrimination abroad. 

Diversity Abroad: Global Diversity and Inclusion 
This web site offers destination-specific information, student advice and blogs, and information regarding financial and scholarships for diverse students. 
 
IES Abroad: Race, Ethnicity and Nationality Resources 
This organization is a non-profit study abroad provider that has compiled resources on race, ethnicity and nationality abroad.  
 
Race Abroad for Americans of Color Preparing to Live Abroad (a Glimpse publication)  
This publication addresses common considerations for and concerns of US students of color studying abroad. It also contains short articles written by multicultural students who have studied abroad. 
 
The Plato Project (Project for Learning Abroad, Training and Outreach) Supporting Diversity in Study Abroad resource page  
This web site has links to scholarships and articles for students who are under-represented in study abroad.   
 
Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) 
Webster University’s MCISA exists to provide programs and services to students and faculty; and to create a community environment that recognizes social differences, respects cultural uniqueness, and facilitates cross-cultural interaction, learning and appreciation.