As a racialized student, you may have specific questions and concerns about participating in global learning activities abroad. When going abroad, it is important to learn about how people of your racial/ethnic identity are perceived and treated. 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.
Below you will find resources to help you research your destination country and learn more about the experiences of racialized students abroad.
Note that this information was adapted from the University of Maryland - Education Abroad’s Students of Color Abroad page (external link, opens in new window) , Portland Community College - Education Abroad’s Students of Color Abroad page (external link, opens in new window) , and Iowa State University - Study Abroad Center’s Multicultural Students page (external link, opens in new window) .
- What is the relationship between my destination country, my home country and/or my place of racial/ethnic origin?
- What types of experiences do racialized students typically have on the programs (or in the country) I am considering? If I am unsure, how might I go about finding out?
- If staying with a host family, have they accommodated students of my race/ethnicity before? If not, will this be an issue for me or them?
- How is my race/ethnicity perceived in my destination country? What kinds of stereotypes exist about my race/ethnicity? How are people of my race/ethnicity typically treated in my destination country?
- What are my resources if I experience racial or discriminatory incidents?
- What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country/region? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a particular race or ethnicity?
- Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in my destination country?
- What are some of the harms I might experience because of my race/ethnicity in my destination country and am I willing to face these challenges?
- In Canada, your race/ethnicity may be a defining factor of your identity. However, while abroad you might be perceived as Canadian first.
- In contrast, assumptions about the social groups associated with your nationality may cause others abroad to question your origins. They might ask you questions about your nationality and cultural heritage, even after you've already stated it. For example, as a racialized person you might be asked where are you “really” from, after you already stated you’re Canadian. Recognize that these questions are most likely a result of a lack of awareness about the social demographics of your country, rather than prejudice.
- When visiting racially/ethnically homogeneous areas, you may encounter curious locals who have never seen people who look like you. They might stare at you excessively, take photos of you, or even try to touch you/your hair. If it makes you uncomfortable, politely express your discomfort and they will most likely respect your boundaries.
- 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 your race or ethnic background are discriminated against while abroad.
- Do your research about any race-specific products that you use to see if they are available in the destination region (eg. hair and beauty products). Plan to bring with you if needed.
- 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 any incidents arise. However, don’t expect prejudice to happen either.
- You may find it empowering to facilitate conversations about race and ethnicity in your destination country. However, you are participating in a global learning activity to make the most of your adventure—don’t feel pressured to explain your identity to everyone all the time. Choose opportunities that suit you and that you have identified as safe and inclusive to have this conversation. 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
All Abroad Diversity Resources (external link, opens in new window) - A U.S. based website with resources for racialized students interested in study abroad.
Diversity Abroad (external link, opens in new window) - A U.S. based website that seeks to promote study abroad opportunities. The site includes blogs, profiles, and forums from students studying abroad.
How to Engage in Challenging Conversations Abroad (external link, opens in new window) - An article from Diversity Abroad.
(PDF file) Race Abroad Guide (external link, opens in new window) - A guide for “Americans of colour preparing to live abroad” by the Glimpse Foundation. Includes student experiences and results of a survey conducted with racialized students in the U.S. who studied abroad.
On She Goes (external link, opens in new window) - A digital travel platform that helps women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often.
Meaningful Travel Tips & Tales: Latinx Perspectives (external link, opens in new window) – A free e-book by GoAbroad.
Support Diversity in Study Abroad Resources (external link, opens in new window) - By The Center for Global Education of PLATO: Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach.
Innclusive Vacation Rentals (external link, opens in new window) - An Airbnb style accommodation service that seeks to deal with the discrimination that people of color face on Airbnb through a variety of ways.