For minority students, studying abroad may present special challenges. These challenges can include discrimination, depending on how foreign cultures perceive your particular ethnicity. However, your ethnic uniqueness can also benefit you while living in a foreign country. Here are four ways that being a minority can be an advantage while studying abroad.
First, minority students often discover that their uniqueness facilitates conversation, creates curiosity, and attracts people. Having not seen someone like you before, people in your host country may become very interested in learning more about you. Don’t take this as an offense; instead see this as an opportunity to share your culture and other differences with them.
Second, minority students often find that they adapt quickly to their host community because of their minority experience in the U.S. As a minority in the U.S., you interact daily with both the majority culture and with other minority cultures, and this experience crossing cultural divides has prepared you to engage cultures and societies in other countries. In your host country, you may find that this American minority experience has gifted you with useful skills that come in handy when interacting with people in your host community.
Third, you might be the only person from your minority group that people from your host country will ever meet. Rather than consider the opportunity a burden, think of it as a chance to shape the image another culture or nation develops of your ethnicity, and of America as a whole. In many cases, your encounters with people in your host country may be the only frame of reference they have of people who look like you. You should also consider that they might share these experiences with their friends, families, and local communities. Thus a single, seemingly insignificant, encounter for you could mean a lot more for a member of your host country.
Finally, as a minority student, you might find it easier to accept different perspectives and be more open-minded about different cultures. As a minority in America, you may have faced situations in which you were misunderstood or prejudged based on your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural background—especially if your cultural norms strongly varies from those of mainstream America. Having these experiences can make you less likely to prejudge the actions or behavior of the people in of your host country, thus allowing you to avoid building barriers that could limit the intimacy and connection you can have with the people of your host country.
This said, while their some benefits of being a minority student abroad, it doesn’t mean that non-minority students do not have similar benefits. We all have something unique about us and can use it to our advantage while studying abroad.
Now that you see the many benefits of being a minority abroad, check out the following resource links that will help you get abroad:
Racial and Ethnic Minorities Abroad
Student Travel Abroad Resources