Race and Ethnicity Abroad

Reflecting on Your Identities

Expressing your racial/ethnic identity can be a significant source of growth, challenge, and reflection in a new and unfamiliar environment. You may already be familiar with navigating challenges associated with your race and ethnicity on campus, but there will likely be a different context to navigate in your host culture while abroad. When preparing for an experience abroad, it is important to consider how your racial/ethnic identity will be perceived within the context of your host country.

Talking with other students of similar racial/ethnic backgrounds who have traveled overseas can be a great resource to help you become more aware of these new dynamics and give you some ideas about how to navigate your specific identities in a new culture.

Remember that students of all identities go abroad and that traveling overseas is an opportunity to experience life in another culture, explore alternate perspectives, and become a more engaged global citizen.

Cultural Context

Race and ethnicity can be perceived differently depending on where you travel. Navigating your racial/ethnic identity in another country may be similar to your experience in the U.S. or the complete opposite. For example, you may experience a greater sense of community overseas, encounter increased racism, or a combination of both. Furthermore, your nationality (typically, the country of your passport) may even take precedence while you are abroad.

Your racial/ethnic identity may influence your interactions with local people and how you will be treated in your host country. In order to be prepared, you are encouraged to learn as much as possible about the country prior to departure.

Owning Your Identities

Owning and navigating your identities abroad can be an important aspect of your overseas journey. Students of all racial/ethnic backgrounds travel abroad frequently, and while you may have unique experiences due to your identities, these can be opportunities for growth.

Set yourself up for success abroad by taking ownership of your experience and planning as much as you can before you depart. Research your host country, connect with on-campus or affiliate provider resources, and plan how you will stay in touch with your support system while away from home.

Considerations When Choosing a Program

As you prepare for an international experience, use the following questions to guide you. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may relate to multiple identities. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with a study abroad advisor. Counseling and Testing Services can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.

  • What cultural attitudes, laws, or context exist towards multicultural students in the host country? You will need to consider what the racial, religious, or other majorities are in your intended host country as you answer this question.
  • Are there local tensions in my host country around my social identity groups that might influence my experience abroad?
  • Are there opportunities for study abroad students to indicate a preference for a roommate with a similar cultural or religious background as themselves?
  • Are there multicultural community activities on campus at the host institution or nearby?

Preparing to Go Abroad

Consider the following to help ease the transition into the culture of your destination:

  • How open will I be about my cultural heritage with people in my host country? How might this impact my experience abroad?
  • In addition to being of a racial/ethnic identity, what other social identities do I hold? How will these identities affect my experience abroad?
  • What is my citizenship status? What effect will this have on my ability to travel?
  • Nationality vs. racial identity: In the U.S., you may be identified first by your race. When you’re abroad, it is possible that you may be identified first as an American. How will you prepare for this possible shift in the way others perceive your identity?
  • Being in the majority vs. minority: Will you be traveling to a country where you will be perceived to be in the majority? Alternatively, will you be perceived as a minority? How will these experiences differ from being in the U.S.?
  • How important is it for me to find other multicultural friends while I am abroad? How will I connect with them?
  • How will I stay in touch with my support network back home while I am abroad?
  • How will I incorporate my experiences abroad back into my life at UNT upon my return, especially if I have been a racial minority for the first time while abroad?

Speak with an Advisor

Do you or your family have any concerns related to study abroad? Study Abroad advisors can help to answer these questions and more:

  • How can I be connected with students and alumni with similar identities who have been abroad?
  • What on-campus support and resources can I access overseas?
  • How will study abroad help me reach my academic and professional goals?
  • Will I have the same access to medications as I do in the United States?
  • Will my financial aid or other UNT funding sources transfer over to my study abroad experience? What sources of funding are available for education abroad opportunities?

Schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor.

Helpful Links