Students of Color Abroad
As you prepare to go abroad, you might have concerns about racial discrimination, prejudice, or stereotypes. On the other hand, maybe you are travelling to a place where you will be part of the majority for the first time and people might assume you are a local. Whether or not people realize you are studying abroad, curiosity about your heritage, identity, or culture could lead to some uncomfortable situations. Curiosity from locals could lead to being asked very personal questions (can I touch your hair?), especially if you are travelling to a place with little racial or ethnic diversity.
Encountering Racism While Abroad
Unfortunately, stereotypes and racism exist in countries outside of the U.S. in the same, or perhaps more obvious, ways. Think about self-care practices that you currently use. How can those be adapted while abroad to help you process a discriminatory or hurtful experience? Before you leave for a study abroad program or while you are deciding, ask the host program or your Education Abroad Advisor what resources are available. Is there something like a multicultural student center on campus? Or a counseling service? If not, make sure you know the contact information for your host school’s on-site staff in case you need someone to talk to. Lastly, it might help to have regular check-ins with friends or family back home. Before you leave, here are some questions to help you prepare:
- How is my race/ethnicity perceived in my host country?
- What is the racial history of my host country or the countries I am considering?
- What are the demographics of my host school? Is it possible that I will be the only person of color?
- Do I consider myself part of the minority at home? Is this going to change when I go abroad?
- What are my boundaries for “curiosity” questions from strangers?
- Who can I talk if I experience racism or discrimination while I’m abroad?
You can always discuss these issues with your Education Abroad advisor. In addition, you are welcome to contact the K-State Office of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs by phone at 785-532-6276 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time (before, during, or after your time abroad). Staff are ready to help put you in touch with resources and staff that address any concerns you may have.
Resources beyond K-State
One of the best ways to prepare for your time abroad is to learn from past students. The following resources feature blogs and guides that may also be of assistance as you are researching a country or planning your time abroad:
- Diversity Abroad provides international programming and resources geared toward students of color.
- Tips for Heritage Seekers: A quick summary of things to consider for heritage-seeking students.
- IFSA-Butler Unpacked: Student stories for a variety of subjects
- IES Student Diversity & Access: Country information, scholarships, maps, and advice on a variety of topics.
- All Abroad: Answers to common questions given by mentors including administrators, counselors, former study abroad students, and parents.
- Blogging and vlogging is becoming very popular is a way for students to journal their time abroad. Try looking for student stories on YouTube!
There are also scholarship funds that students of color can apply to, even if they are not specially about education abroad. A few examples include the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the American Indian Education Fund, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF).