Students of Color

Racial and Ethnic Identity Abroad

At St. Thomas, we want all students to feel they are welcome and supported throughout their study abroad experience. While many students of color study abroad without incident, perceptions of racial and ethnic identities in other countries and cultures may vary from experiences in the U.S. You may encounter unexpected or more intense instances of discrimination.

Understanding your host country's cultural and social climate can better prepare you for such experiences and provide you with appropriate response strategies. Reflecting on your own cultural identity development may also be helpful.

For more information about how different racial groups have experienced their study abroad programs, please take a look at the resources linked below.

We’re here to help

We encourage you to reach out to the Office of Study Abroad staff if you have any questions or concerns.

Questions to Consider

  • How is my racial and/or ethnic group perceived in the host community? What types of stereotypes or assumptions might I encounter?
  • What is the historical context of racism or ethnic tension in the host country?
  • Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in the host country?
  • If you encounter offensive comments or behavior, is the person merely curious or do they have bad intentions?
  • Will there be other students of color on my program?
  • Will I be part of a majority or minority racial or ethnic group abroad? How might my American or national identity come into play?
  • Who do I contact if I experience discrimination while abroad?
  • What social supports are available in my host destination or through my program? Are there organizations, events or neighborhoods that relate to my race or ethnicity?

Student Testimony

“My study abroad experience was absolutely amazing, no doubt, but to say that it was easy would be a lie. Sometimes native Koreans didn't believe that I was Korean because I was too tan, and Americans couldn't understand why I didn't use my chopsticks right. Every day I questioned which one of my identities was the one I wanted to represent, and I spent a lot of my mental time wondering which identity was the right one.

When I returned home, I was reminded that my identity struggle wasn't restricted by country lines. Every day I'm reminded that I associate with two different cultures, but every day I'm exploring how those cultures blend into one and represent me. Not me as a Korean, and not me as an American, but me as a human being. I've learned that identity isn't dependent on who your parents are or where you're from or what people expect of you, but it's about what you do with your life in relation to those aspects of who you are.”

—Jenny, CIEE Seoul, South Korea