Encountering a new culture will enable you to tap into capabilities you may have never experienced before and force you to discover what you have taken for granted about yourself. Understanding another culture will enhance your self-awareness, lead to personal growth, and help you develop a greater acceptance of, and compassion for, cultural differences. You may not always admire or endorse the cultural norms and attitudes you experience abroad, but it is guaranteed that you will better understand the US and yourself upon your return. The OIE is here to help and support you throughout your study abroad journey, from the moment you begin the study abroad process, through to your return to campus after studying abroad.
Get to know your host country
Wherever you study abroad, it is helpful to understand the local attitudes, norms, history, and customs of your host country. This will help you navigate your new cultural, historical, and racial context, and fully adjust to life abroad. Do some research on how diverse your host country is, and how your ethnic or racial group is perceived and treated by locals. It's important to be knowledgeable about the support services that exist for you in your host country, like campus and community organizations and offices, so that you can use these resources while you are abroad. You should also be informed of your legal rights in your host country as they pertain to discrimination. The OIE and your host university and/or program provider can help you learn more about these facets of your host country.
Encountering racism or discrimination abroad
As a student of color who wants to study abroad, you may be wary of confronting racial bias while abroad without the comfort of your usual support system. You might be traveling to a country with little racial or ethnic diversity, or you might be traveling to a country where you look like the majority population. Some students of color assume that racism abroad may be so overwhelming that it would be better to stay home, the challenges seem more predictable. In fact, many students of color who study abroad have expressed surprise when they are treated as Americans first and as students who have earned the right to study in the host country. Sometimes, especially in countries where your racial or ethnic group is less common, you might experience curiosity rather than judgement from locals about your background or appearance.
Still, racism and prejudice do exist abroad to varying degrees depending on the country and culture, just as they do in the US. Methods of dealing with discrimination abroad can be similar to the methods you use at home, but you may have different resources to draw support from. Finding new support groups and adjusting to a new comfort zone are things all participants face in study abroad, and OIE, your host university, or your program provider can all help you locate resources and support services. Do not be afraid to ask for help and support.
If you experience discrimination while abroad, it is important to know who to contact for help and support. Prejudice and discrimination can be tiring, frustrating, and upsetting to deal with. Your host university and/or program provider can serve as an excellent resource and support for you in these circumstances. They will be able to connect you with local organizations that work to combat discrimination, and other students or staff who may be able to offer advice or support as well.
Financial resources for students from diverse backgrounds
There are some study abroad scholarships that focus on helping students of color and other diverse groups of students go abroad. For additional resources, please see Finances.
- The Gilman Scholarship is for US citizens who have Pell Grants, and preferences students from diverse backgrounds, like students of color, students from STEM majors, first generation college students, and other groups.
- Diversity Abroad has a number of scholarships available for students of diverse backgrounds
- The Fund for Education Abroad has several scholarships focused on diverse student groups
- Most external program providers found in GoAbroad have diversity-related scholarships