Racial and ethnic relations are varied, complex, and nuanced in every corner of the world. These identities may carry cultural significance that’s quite different than what you’re used to encountering in the US. Traveling internationally can be an exciting way to explore the deep riches of your racial and ethnic background, and you may even find yourself being perceived in ways you didn’t expect.
You may be surprised at the ways you’re categorized abroad by the general population. The physical attributes or historical movements of your race and ethnicity may play a larger or smaller role in society than you’re accustomed to. Furthermore, communication and behavioral norms are bound to differ from what you’re used to at home, and you may be faced with microaggressions—or not-so-microaggressions—regardless of race or ethnicity. Nevertheless, there is incredible value in embracing the fullness of your racial and ethnic identity as an active part of your international experience, ultimately leading to personal growth, broadened perspectives, and hopefully a greater understanding and appreciation of your identity as a global entity.
As you research, consider these questions:
What racial and ethnic demographics exist in my host country? What historical, political, and cultural events have impacted those groups?
How will the climate towards my race and ethnicity affect the way I engage with my host culture?
Will being an international student impact my perceived race and ethnicity while abroad?
Am I prepared to adapt to becoming part of a racial and/or ethnic minority? Majority?
How do my race and ethnicity interact with other aspects of my identity in the context of my host country?
What information and/or support systems do I need in order to ensure my safety and well-being while abroad?
Am I able to achieve and experience the things I want from this program in a safe way?
These resources may be helpful when considering how your race and ethnicity could influence your international experience:
WVU Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: https://diversity.wvu.edu/
WVU Center for Black Culture and Research: https://cbc.wvu.edu/
Diversity Abroad has a diversity and inclusion abroad guide for racial and ethnic minorities in study abroad
The Center for Global Education’s PLATO Project – Resources to support underrepresented students abroad
Black and Abroad provides stories, tips, and journeys from a community of black travelers.