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Race and Ethnicity Abroad

Researching potential host countries will better prepare you to make an informed decision so you can maximize your international experience. 

As you dig deeper into study abroad program options, you may want to consider how your perceived racial identity and ethnicity might be understood abroad. Be aware of your own cultural assumptions and expectations, and do research on your host country so you know what to expect before you depart. 

Ask your program leaders to provide country-specific information on the diversity and inclusion climate in places you might be considering. Our office can assist you by providing Diversity Abroad Culture & Diversity Destination Guides, and can also share other resources. We want to support you as much as possible, so please contact us with any questions or concerns you have.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • How might my host country perceive my race and ethnicity?
  • What stereotypes exist?
  • Am I going to be treated the same way abroad as I am in the U.S.? Will I be perceived as a minority or majority for the first time?
  • Should I anticipate racism or discriminatory behavior? How will I react if I encounter racism or other discriminatory behavior while abroad?
  • What is my race/ethnicity’s history in this country? Are there laws governing race or ethnic relations? What protections are offered to minority populations?
  • How will I feel if I am the only student of color in a group of other Americans on my program?


  • The STAMPED Podcast is a great resource for learning about study abroad from the perspective of a person of color:
  • DiversityAbroad has lots of free articles with tips for studying abroad as a person of color. Examples include how to care for black hair, etc.
  • PLATO (Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach) is a study abroad diversity outreach program that provides comprehensive support resources for study abroad to all U.S. students – with special support for underrepresented students.
  • All Abroad offers mentors who are students, parents, and advisors who are comfortable with addressing study abroad diversity concerns.
  • This blog post sums up some of the main concerns POCs might have when thinking about studying abroad.
  • This video is a story about a Peruvian American who studied abroad in Jordan. Her story gives insight to what it’s like to be abroad as a POC.
  • GoOverseas tips on being a BIPOC abroad
  • “What it’s like to be a minority abroad” in Pre-Departure Orientation Blackboard course

Preparing to Depart

Although you may be classified somewhat generally by your race while in the United States, you may find that you’re more often identified by your national identity (citizenship) or ethnic identity in your host country. If you travel to a location where you belong to the racial or ethnic majority, you may also find that expectations are different for you than they are for other Americans. Locals assume you speak the host language, or have the same cultural knowledge as them.

If you belong to a racial or ethnic group that is different than what is dominant in your host country, you might even find that locals will identify you by a completely different racial group than what you are used to, depending on the perceptions of different racial groups in your host country. You may find that local residents are curious about you, and express this curiosity in ways that you might find insensitive or prejudiced.

It is important to prepare yourself for these possibilities, as well as do research on the ways your host country perceives different racial and ethnic identities. 

Resources Developed by PLATO for Students of specific Racial or Ethnic Backgrounds 

African-American Students

Asian-American and Pacific-American Students

Hispanic-American Students

Native American Students