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Race and Ethnicity Abroad

Study abroad offers you the unique and exciting opportunity to learn about and interact with people of different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. In most cases, your interaction with host nationals will be among the most rewarding aspects of your experience abroad.

In some situations, however, your race, ethnicity or other identity anchors may be read or interpreted differently than you are accustomed to in the U.S. You may also encounter different cultural norms related to race and minority status, where racism and other forms of discrimination are performed, viewed, and addressed differently than you are used to.

You may find that your racial or ethnic identity is seen in a new way. Understanding how cultural differences can impact perceptions of race, ethnicity, and identity in an international context is an important component of your preparation to study abroad.

From your hair color to your passport nationality, differences in perceptions about your race, ethnicity, or other identity in the U.S. and in your host culture, may likely affect your experiences.  Some students may find themselves in a country where they are part of the majority race or ethnicity for the first time in their life, whereas others may find themselves as the minority for the first time. These interactions and differences in perception could result in a variety of potentially uncomfortable experiences, which may include:
  • Additional attention and possible staring
  • Fetishization and Objectification
  • Questioning from locals about where you’re from
  • Disbelief that you are American or reversely, stereotyping you as American
  • Possible discrimination or hurtful comments
  • Safety concerns (Note: if you are feeling unsafe while abroad, contact local authorities, your program provider, and/or the Center for Global Engagement)
As preparation for these potential experiences, we encourage you to chat with your study abroad advisors, and other on-campus faculty and advisors.  To help facilitate these conversations, we recommend considering some of these questions:
  • How might I be perceived in my host country?
  • Is it common for students of my race or ethnicity to experience discrimination in the country I’m studying in? Who can I talk to about it if I do?
  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity or religion?
  • Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in my host country? How do immigration concerns fuel racial tensions at home or in my host country?
  • Are there laws in the host country governing race relations? Ethnic relations? What protections are offered to ethnic or racial minorities? 

Additional resources: is a comprehensive site for students interested in diversity issues abroad. The site also provides specific advice for African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans and Native Americans. offers discussion forums, destination guides, student blogs, and a funding directory to assist students of diverse backgrounds. 

Diversity Issues in Study Abroad is a collection of Brown University student perspectives about diversity, identity and discrimination abroad.

Study Abroad Matters: Top 10 Reasons for African American Students to Study Abroad addresses the specific benefits to African American students of studying abroad.

Encounters of Another Color, by Stephanie Griffith, appeared in the New York Times and describes her experience as a black American student in Madrid, Spain. 

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad as an African American - Go Overseas
Black Girls Abroad Blog - Black Girls Abroad
Dealing with Stereotypes Abroad - Diversity Abroad

African American Perspectives  - Go Abroad

Latinx Travelers' Perspectives  - Go Abroad

Asian Travelers' Perspectives  - Go Abroad
Arab-American Perspectives  - Go Abroad

Managing Black Hair Abroad - Diversity Abroad
Minority and Students of Color Abroad - Diversity Abroad
On Studying Abroad as a Person of Color: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear - Huffington Post
Resources to support Underrepresented Students - Project for Learning Abroad Training, and Outreach
Black Students Study Abroad: The Good, The Bad and The Weird - an overview of what you may expect and consider as a Black traveler and student abroad.

Studying Abroad As A Minority - things to consider for minority group members who study outside of the U.S.

Culture and Diversity Destination Guides - a variety of travel guides for specific countries. The Diversity & Inclusion Climate section provides information on how certain identities might be seen or treated in that country.

7 Things that only Latino Travelers Understand -  MatadorNetwork
Casual Racism in Travel  -  the award-winning travel blog “Oneika the Traveller”,
Traveling while Asian - blog

TWA: Traveling while Asian - Mixed Race American blog

Traveling as a Person of Color Is Stressful -

Traveling while Arab – a NYT opinion article by Alaa Al Aswany

Traveling While Sikh - blog

Black and Abroad Podcast - recently recorded conversations about preparing for and undertaking study/travel abroad, and navigating Black identity outside the U.S.
Stamped Podcast - stories of study abroad & transformational travel from people of color

You may also find more helpful resources in the Heritage Seekers (going abroad to ancestral homelands) tab.

With these resources and some preparation, we hope we can help you build a rewarding study abroad experience into your college degree.  We encourage you to reach out to us and start exploring where and when you might study abroad.
Please feel free to contact us to set a study abroad advising appointment at the Center for Global Engagement.  We are advising in-person at CSI and virtually via Zoom.  See our contact info here: Advising Hours.