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Race and Ethnicity Abroad

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Ideas of race and ethnicity vary from culture to culture. Because of this, your race and/or ethnicity may be perceived or labeled by host nationals differently than what you may be accustomed to at home in the US. Additionally, there may be cultural norms surrounding race, ethnicity, and minority status that differ in your host culture from those present in cultures of the US. Racism and other discriminatory practices surrounding these identities may be performed, viewed, and/or addressed differently than how they may be in your home culture, both on an individual level as well as a cultural/societal level. 

You may go from being part of the racial/ethnic majority in the US to being part of the minority in your host culture, or vice versa. Experiences surrounding this notion will vary from culture to culture, just as the very ideas of race and ethnicity do. If you are joining a minority group in your host culture, it may make finding things like self care products, makeup, and hair care products hard to find in your host area. You may want to research their availability in the host culture ahead of time, or bring extras of your favorite products with you. 

Host nationals may make assumptions about you based on your appearance, features, accent, and/or use of the English language, especially if you are part of a racial or ethnic minority in the host culture. People may potentially ask questions or make comments about your race/ethnicity because they are interested and unfamiliar with people with your identity, but in a way feels intrusive, inappropriate, or downright offensive. Though they may be well-intentioned and unaware of how these questions come across to you or make you feel, your wellbeing, comfort, and safety are of the utmost importance and you are free to leave a conversation that makes you feel that they are being infringed upon.

Things to consider:

  • Is my host culture generally homogenous, or diverse?
  • How are people with my race/ethnicity perceived in my host culture? 
  • Does the host culture have a history of discrimination/prejudice/racism against those with my race/ethnicity?
  • Are there culturally-specific stereotypes associated with folks of my race/ethnicity in my host culture?
  • How might my race/ethnicity shape my experience abroad?
  • Are there anti-discrimination laws that protect people of my race/ethnicity in my host country?
  • How will I face potential discrimination, racism, or stereotyping with host nationals? What can I do to ensure my comfort and safety during interactions like that, and in general?

Websites and Resources


Interested in hearing Black Loyola student perspectives on the Study Abroad experience? Check out CIE's Black Abroad panel from Spring 2021.

If you find these resources useful, have helpful resources we should consider adding, or have questions or comments about this page, let us know at

Updated 3/2/21 by Shosh Pojawa (CIE Peer Advisor, AY20-21)