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Race and Ethnicity

Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture, meaning that while you’re abroad, you may be part of an ethnic minority or majority for the first time in your life or have to think about your identity in a new way. For instance, if you’re visiting a country where you have ethnic or racial roots, you may have to consider the local norms and expectations in ways that other students with different backgrounds may not. Remember that in countries with ethnic or racial conflicts, you may be inadvertently identified with one group or another simply based on your appearance. On the other hand, perhaps you’ll be considered a U.S. citizen first, and your ethnic or racial identity will be secondary. You can prepare yourself for the situations you may encounter by researching the minority, majority, and plurality racial and ethnic composition of your host country and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations

Steps to Take

  1. Ask Thoughtful Questions
  2. Research Your Host Country
  3. Identify Resources Available
  4. Discuss Your Study Abroad Plans


  • Where do people of my race/ethnicity fit into my host country’s society? Am I likely to be a target of racism/classism, or am I going to be treated the same way in my host country as I am in the US?
  • What are the cultural norms of my host country?
  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity or religion?
  • Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in my host country? How do politicized immigration concerns fuel racial tensions? What is the character of immigrant communities?
  • Are there laws in the host country governing race relations? Ethnic relations? What protections are offered to ethnic or racial minorities?
  • What are the ethnic, racial, religious, gender identities that characterize you? Reflect and learn how you can expect to be treated in your host country based on these characteristics.
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  • Social supports in your host country and at home will help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new race/ethnic relations. Know whom to contact when you feel like your race or ethnic background are discriminated against while abroad.
  • What are the opportunities you will have as a racial/ethnic minority – either in the US or in your host country, or both – studying abroad? Are there funding opportunities? Research opportunities for your thesis or capstone undergraduate project? Contact the URGO Office (Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity) and undergraduate departments like International Relations, Peace and Global Studies, and language departments to gain feedback from them.
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