You are now in the main content area

Indigenous Students

Engaging in global learning activities is a great way to gain new perspectives and to develop unique skills. There are some basic things that all students should be thinking about - i.e. why participate, which program to choose, and how to fund the activity (visit the Go Abroad section of our website to explore these considerations further). However, as an Indigenous student you may have specific questions and concerns about participating in global learning activities abroad. As you prepare for your global learning activity, our office is here to help you through the process and answer any questions you may have.

If you are interested in exploring Indigenous Studies programming at universities abroad, take a look at some of Ryerson’s current partners below. You may be able to participate in the exchange program (for information on how to apply, visit our Semester Exchange: How to Apply section), or complete an internship or research project. In addition, faculty and staff may have connections at other universities that would facilitate additional opportunities, even if an institutional agreement doesn’t already exist (as with the universities listed below).

If you are interested in travelling abroad for a shorter period of time and would like to engage with indigenous communities internationally, one of the gatherings or conferences below may be of interest:

For the most part, global learning will hopefully be a positive experience. However, you may also encounter some troublesome experiences on your travels. Unfortunately, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are not limited to Canadian society; Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world can also experience discrimination simply because of who they are - including their Indigenous identity. You might experience the same, even though you are traveling in other parts of the world. While this may be the case, don’t let this possibility prevent you from seeking out international experiences. 

One way to help reduce the stress and anxiety of going to a new place is to research it before you leave. As an Indigenous student, it’s important to think about and do some research into how Indigenous peoples, both locally and internationally, are perceived and treated in your destination country.

  • What are the cultural norms of my destination country? Are there religious/cultural institutions or practices that they adhere to?
  • What kinds of stereotypes exist about Indigenous people in my destination country? How are local Indigenous groups perceived there?
  • Who is perceived as Indigenous in my destination country, and how is that perception different than my experience as a Indigenous person in Toronto/Canada?
  • What is the relationship between my destination country and my home country?
  • What are my resources if I experience racial or discriminatory incidents?
  • If staying with a host family, have they accommodated Indigenous students before? If not, will this be an issue for me or for them?
  • Will I have access to Elders? To Indigenous health and medicine?
  • Will I be able to bring sacred or ceremonial items into my destination country? Some countries, such as New Zealand, have very strict biological material restrictions and may confiscate items without special permits.
  • How comfortable am I reaching out to local Indigenous groups for support?
  • While abroad, others might identify you as Canadian first, as opposed to Indigenous. Many people may not be aware of the history of settler colonialism in Canada, or the effects it has to this day on Indigenous nations and communities. How might you explain that history to someone unfamiliar with Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples?
  • People in other countries might ask insensitive questions about your cultural heritage, physical features, or national origins. Some may even believe that Indigenous peoples in Canada have been completely wiped out. This may be the case particularly in homogenous regions where people have had limited contact with people outside of their region. Recognize that these questions are most likely a result of a lack of awareness about the demographics of Canada, or the reality of settler colonialism and its impacts, rather than prejudice.
  • Social support in your destination country and at home can help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new racial/ethnic relations. Know whom to contact when you feel like you are discriminated against while abroad. Having a support system of family and friends may also help you deal with feelings of isolation and culture shock.
  • Knowing the social and historical situation in your destination country can help you prepare for the transition from Canada and back. This helps you be prepared if troubling incidents arise. However, don’t expect prejudice to happen either.
  • You may find it empowering to facilitate conversations about your Indigenous identity in your destination country. However, you are participating in a global learning activity to make the most of your experience —don’t feel pressured to explain your identity to everyone all the time. Choose opportunities that you feel are safe, and that suit your interests, needs, and goals. . It isn’t your job to educate everyone in your destination country on your identity —you’re abroad for your own personal growth and education.
  • Conversations like those noted above may take place with other students on your global learning abroad program. Some students find it more difficult to work through issues with other students on the program than they do with individuals from the destination country. Be prepared for these situations as well. If you ever feel unsafe, or feel that the discrimination is overwhelming, contact your global learning program coordinators for assistance.
  • Finally, note that discrimination can also lead to violence. At all times, make safety your goal. You will often be the first person to know if a situation is becoming unsafe. Trust your instincts, and do not do anything or go anywhere if you’re not comfortable in doing so.

Note that some of this information was adapted from Geneseo - Study Abroad’s Native American Students Abroad, external link, opens in new window page, AllAbroad’s What About Discrimination for Native American Students, external link, opens in new window page, and AllAbroad’s Reasons to Study Aborad for Native American Students, external link, opens in new window page.

Aboriginal Student Services at Ryerson

Ryerson’s First Nations students experience the world’s largest conference on Indigenous Studies - Article from Ryerson Today about group of Ryerson students who travelled to the NAISA conference in June 2019. 

Reasons to Study Abroad for Native American Students, external link, opens in new window and What About Discrimination for Native American Students, external link - All Abroad U.S. is a U.S. based organization that aims to help students study abroad. While the article is written for U.S. Native American Students, its message has similar implications for Indigenous students in Canada. 

How to Engage in Challenging Conversations Abroad, external link, opens in new window - An article from Diversity Abroad.

Increasing Access for Indigenous Students in International Ed, external link, opens in new window - An article by a staff member of CISAbroad, a private organization that helps students study or intern abroad. 

Experience spurred study of own culture, external link, opens in new window - An article about Miranda Livers, a student with Cherokee heritage, who participated in an Indigenous exchange program at the University of Otago, New Zealand. 

Student experiences participating in a Cross-Cultural Indigenous Knowledge Exchange, external link, opens in new window - Through the University of Northern British Columbia (scroll to bottom of page).