Race & Ethnicity Abroad

Study Abroad Advisors are available to answer questions about the study abroad process, and to help provide resources that shed light on how race or ethnicity may be experienced, viewed and understood differently abroad. Early discussions about race and ethnicity can help you develop a realistic understanding of how your identity might play into the experience in different locations. OSA hosted a semesterly panel discussion on race abroad. Please check in with the OSA or MSSC for more details on this event. 

To help facilitate the discussion of race and ethnicity with your Study Abroad Advisor, or any potential study abroad program provider, here are a few examples of questions you may want to consider:

  • How will I be perceived in my host community?

  • How many students of color typically study on the programs I am considering?

  • Will I experience discrimination in the country I study in? Who can I talk to about it if I do?

  • Where do people of my race/ethnicity fit into my host country’s society? Am I likely to be a target of racism/classism, or am I going to be treated the same way in my host country as I am in the US?

  • What are the cultural norms of my host country? Are there religious/cultural institutions or rituals that they adhere to?

  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity or religion?

  • Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in my host country? How do politicized immigration concerns fuel racial tensions? What is the character of immigrant communities?

  • Are there laws in the host country governing race relations? Ethnic relations? What protections are offered to ethnic or racial minorities?

Common Concerns 

1.  Being Identified First as an American

“You may be black at home, but here you’re just an American” -  Comment made to African American student in South Africa

2.  Not Being Identified as an American

“You are not American, but your friend, he is an American”. - .+Comment made to Latina faculty member during a study abroad experience in China.

3. Having Comments Made about one’s Appearance

Are you sure you’re not Roma? Because you look Roma to me” - Comment made to mixed race student in Italy.

4. Experiencing Fetishization and Objectification

“…while we were touring, many of the patrons were asking to touch my hair, take pictures of me and with me, and openly stared as they walked past me. “ (Lowery - Wynn, 2015, p. 212). - Comment made to African American student in China.

5. Having Safety Concerns

Students of color may experience street harassment for the first time depending on their backgrounds or more may experience more aggressive harassment than usual

6. Experiencing Language Discrimination

“You Puerto Ricans just can’t really speak Spanish.” - Comment made to student while studying in Spain.

7. Experiencing Discrimination from Peers

Students of color can also experience discrimination from other Americans studying abroad (Willis & Delalue, 2016). While the research on within-group discrimination is limited, there is a belief that this type of discrimination is particularly toxic because it undermines a person’s sense of belonging to a group (Lopez et al., 2015). DiversityNetwork.org - Resources Blog

Do Your Research 

  • Speak with your GW Study Abroad Advisor openly about your concerns. We are here to assist to students and can provide resources for exploration

  • Speak openly with your Program Provider regarding your concerns and ask about how past student life experiences of students with similar backgrounds

  • Request to speak with program alumni with similar backgrounds to learn about their experiences in the host country and the program

  • Contact the GW Multiculltural Student Services Center to learn more about race ad ethinicity considerations abroad. 


  • Diversity Abroad Diversity Abroad is an organization that provides a central location for resources on diversity abroad, including race/ethnicity.

  • GW Multicultural Student Services Center is a GW Department and home away from home for many GW students. The MSSC can assist students interested in learning more about race and ethnicity considerations abroad and domestically. 

  • All Abroad: What About Diversity This site addresses discrimination issues that students may face.  Specifically, the site provides resources for students who identify as Black/African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin/Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.

  • Amnesty International: Discrimination Amnesty International, worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all, defines discrimination.

  • Project for Learning Abroad, Training and Outreach (PLATO) Provided by the Center for Global Education, this page includes links to organizations, resources, and scholarships that support academic advancement for underrepresented groups.

  • Scholarships for Multicultural Students This link from Michigan State University's Department of International Studies & Programs provides information about many scholarships available for students.

  • Top 10 Reasons for African-American Students to Go Abroad TransitionsAbroad.com outlines ten reasons African-American should study abroad and information relating to the myths associated with study abroad.


GW Study Abroad Alumna Perspective: Rechael Ikwuagwu in Senegal