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Students of Color

As a student of color, you may find that you have things to consider when choosing your study abroad location that other students do not.  Your study abroad location might have a different racial and ethnic make-up than what you are familiar with in the places you have lived in the United States.  Perceptions and attitudes about race and ethnicity vary greatly from location to location and you should research the way in which these issues are dealt with and discussed in your host country before you go.  You may be incorrectly identified with one group or another simply based on your appearance.  While in the US, you might first be identified by your race/ethnicity, but abroad, you may first be identified as an American.   This may be particularly true if you are going to a place where you have a similar ethnic or racial background to the country, e.g. Latino students going to Latin America, African Americans going to Africa, Asian American students going to Asia. 

In some countries, people may speak bluntly about race and ethnicity while in others there may be silence.  Because attitudes vary widely depending on where you are studying, it will be important to research your location before you depart.

Things to consider

  • You may be considered American before the ethnicity you identify with in the U.S.  Be sure to read more about what identifying yourself as an American might mean abroad
  • You may be the first person that someone has seen or met of your race or ethnicity.  People may stare at you and want to touch you.   They may ask invasive, insensitive questions.  Ask yourself how you would react if you encountered this behavior.  
  • Research the following:
    • How diverse is the location? 
    • What contact and relations do minority groups (and specifically yours) have in your host country?
    • What current events are occurring in your host country?  Do those impact the way in which minorities are viewed?
  • It is important that you understand your own expectations and cultural assumptions before you study abroad.  Identify how your own prior experiences with racial issues affects your viewpoint.  The more aware you are about your own point of view and the more you understand about your host location, the more likely you are to understand an uncomfortable situation if it arises while abroad.
  • Consider applying for a study abroad scholarship specific to minority students. 

Resources

  • The AU Abroad Office can advise you on your study abroad options and help you find the right program for your major and personal goals.  The AU Abroad office is located in the Rockwood building (to the left of Public Safety by the south side shuttle stop). Tel: 202-885-1320 or auabroad@american.edu
  • The Center for Diversity and Inclusion at AU can help you get ready to study abroad. Please visit their office to ask questions and to seek advice about living abroad. Their office is located in the Mary Graydon Center Room 201. Tel: 1-202-885-3651 or cdi@american.edu
  • Diversity Abroad is an organization dedicated to increasing participation and better serving the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in international education. They have a diversity and inclusion abroad guide on their website. 
  • All Abroad.us is a resource for students, parents, faculty, and administrators interested in study abroad. In it, students will find answers to common questions about study abroad given by experienced mentors, including study abroad administrators, counselors, former study abroad students, and parents.  Information on funding opportunities, career development, diversity resources and content for specific populations is also available. 
  • Race Abroad for Americans of Color Preparing to Live Abroad is a publication that addresses common concerns of US students of color studying abroad.  It also contains short articles written by multicultural students who have studied abroad.