Diversity and Study Abroad
For the majority of students, study abroad is an amazing and sometimes life changing experiences. But just like life at your home school, you may encounter some discrimination on your travels. For some students when they study abroad it will be the first time they will be in the position of being a minority.
Although you will be a minority in your host country, you may receive additional attention depending on your background and ethnicity, which may or may not be discrimination. People might judge you based on your ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Remember, there is nowhere in the world 100-percent free of ignorant people. Whatever happens, don’t let the possibility of discrimination prevent you from experiencing the life changing benefits of studying abroad.The Facts
International experiences have had a tremendous effect on the personal and professional lives of countless business professionals, entertainers, athletes, as well as community and government leaders from all kinds of diverse backgrounds.
While no place is completely free from discrimination, some students actually discover less discrimination abroad than at their home universities. You will learn a lot about your host country’s culture and your own by living in another country.Curiosity or discrimination?
You may discover that what first seems like discrimination is actually curiosity. Your challenge is to figure out the difference. People may stare at you or ask questions that you find insensitive.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people outside of the U.S. tend to be less concerned about “political correctness.” At times you may find someone to be saying something that you find offensive. However, they may not realize that it is offensive to you; in fact, what they say may be perfectly acceptable in their society. In other words, the two of you are not attuned to each other’s cultural norms.An opportunity to change minds
In many parts of the world, a person’s only connection with Americans and certain cultural groups comes from what they see on TV or in movies. Sometimes the media doesn’t portray these groups, such as minorities, in a favorable light. As such, you have the opportunity to be a representative for minorities, people with disabilities, GLBT students, people of your religion, and/or women abroad. Show who you are and be an ambassador for your culture abroad. In this way, you can help change the perceptions of diverse groups for the positive.
Nevertheless, you may face some sort of discrimination while abroad. Don’t let this possibility rob you of the many benefits that you will gain. Inform yourself beforehand about diverse groups so you have an idea of what to expect during your trip.