Racial and Ethnic Diversity

You may be concerned about facing prejudice abroad in a new way without your usual support systems.  Attitudes about race and ethnicity will vary country to country and even city to city and may be vastly different from what you are used to in the United States. We recommend doing research on your host country and city before going abroad to learn about the attitudes towards race and ethnicity in that area.

Regardless of how you identify, there may be people who infer things about you based on your physical appearance. While you are abroad, some people may wrongly assume your ethnicity or may see you simply as an American student. Many people will be interested in learning more about your culture or your ethnicity with sincere interest, but there may also be instances where some behaviors may make you uncomfortable. People may ask to touch your skin or hair or ask insensitive questions about your heritage, culture, and physical features, especially if you are studying abroad in a location where people have had little or no contact with people of different races or ethnicities.

Although you should be prepared if a situation arises, you should not go abroad expecting discrimination. Study abroad is a life-changing experience for students of diverse backgrounds where you will learn much about others and yourself, so do not let these limit your experiences.

Some questions to help you prepare may be:

  • What are some common stereotypes about my race, ethnicity, or nationality in my host country?
  • Is there a history of racial or ethnic tension in my host country?
  • How should I react if I find something offensive?
  • Who will I contact if I do face racially-based or discriminatory incidents?

Some tips we recommend for students are:

  • Remember that cultural norms are different in your host country so they may be less politically correct than people in the U.S. You can use these moments as teaching moments if you wish.
  • Do some research about your identifying group in your host-country to help you better understand the history
  • Be aware that people may wrongly generalize or identify you.
  • Build a support system in-country that you can rely on including providers and The Center for Global Education. We are here to support you.
  • If somebody says or does something that is offensive to you, try to distinguish between a person who is genuinely curious about you or someone who has bad intentions.
  • If a situation makes you uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation. Always make your own safety your priority.

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