Students of color successfully study abroad every year with Notre Dame International’s various study abroad programs. One of the many exciting aspects of study abroad is encountering people who will show a sincere interest in your culture as an American as well as your ethnic and racial background. However, students who are part of racial/ethnic minorities in the US may have a very different experience abroad. It is likely that as students of color you will encounter your racial identity in new and unfamiliar ways during your time abroad, as different countries tend to view race in different ways.
The most common situations students may experience abroad include the following:
- Being part of the majority ethnicity for the first time
- Being classified as "American" rather than as the self-identified race/ethnicity
- Being treated as a curiosity by locals because of appearance, skin color, hair texture, and so on
- Experiencing racism in different forms from the US.
In collaboration with the Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS), NDI Study Abroad has compiled information regarding the selection of programs, questions to ask yourself and additional resources. We encourage you to contact a Study Abroad program director if you would like to talk to a student of color who has participated in study abroad or if you would like to discuss your personal questions or concerns.
Selecting a Program
There are various factors to consider as you discern which study abroad location is best for you. In addition to academic and co-curricular fit, we encourage you to research your host country and get a sense of belief systems and values to determine if they differ heavily from your own, or are more closely aligned than you previously thought. Because your experience abroad will be influenced by your unique identities, as a student of color, there are social, political and personal considerations you should make while planning your future study abroad endeavor. NDI Study Abroad program directors are here to help you discuss your various study abroad options.
Questions to Ask Yourself
As you consider and prepare for an international experience, use the following questions to guide you in self-reflection. This is not an exhaustive list, and you may relate to multiple identities. When reflecting on your race and cultural background and its impact on your study experience, we also encourage you to establish what is important and necessary for you as you study abroad and determine how you would navigate new situations.
- What is the racial/ethnic make-up of my host country/city/university?
- How is my racial/ethnic group perceived in my host country? What kind of stereotypes are there?
- What are the cultural and local attitudes towards people of my nationality, race, and ethnicity in my host country?
- 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 conflicts going on within the host country that citizens and visitors of color should be especially aware of? If so, what is the government/police’s role in the conflict?
- Has my host family housed students of color before? If not, will this be an issue for them?
- I am used to being part of the majority at home but will be a minority abroad. How will this affect me?
- Will there be other students of color in my program?
- How would I react if I find something to be offensive?
- Who should I contact if I face racial or discriminatory incidents?
- Does my program have support staff that will understand and help me through any racial or discriminatory incident I may face?
- What expectations do I have of this experience?
- How can I create my support system while I am abroad? Who are the people I need to have access to while abroad?
- Multicultural Student Programs and Services
- Speak Up ND
- Check out Diversity Abroad’s:
- IES Abroad: Everything You Need to Know About Studying Abroad with Black Girl Hair
The Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach (PLATO)
- PLATO has additional resources that focus on supporting diversity for several student populations.