"As a Black woman abroad, I often find myself in situations where there is no one else like me. In these moments, attention is often called to my hair or skin. Usually these reactions are positive and I have realized that locals are learning from me while I am also learning from them."
"Over the course of two summers I traveled to Peru and Trinidad and Tobago. I found traveling abroad as a student of color was an advantage. Locals approached me with more comfort, and patients at clinics in both countries were more comfortable working with me because I had skin more similar to theirs. So don't be afraid to travel and get out there no matter what your skin tone is!"
"Going into this experience, I was very apprehensive about how I would be treated in a country where African-American people are rarely seen. However, after spending six amazing weeks in Spain, I can say that it is a country that is very welcoming and open to all people. At no point did I ever feel isolated or mistreated because of my race, which allowed me to have a more authentic and intimate connection to Spanish culture and its people."
"A full semester of self-discovery, self-reflection, and self-love through experiencing new people, unique places, and mouth-watering food."
Use this page to explore how your race and ethnicity can present opportunities, challenges, and unexpected interactions while traveling abroad.
As you consider and prepare for an international experience, use the following questions as a guide. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may relate to multiple identities. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college. The Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.
Researching the social, political, and cultural context of how different racial and ethnic identities may be interpreted abroad can play an important role in where you choose to travel. Attitudes and perceptions around race, ethnicity, and national identity vary widely around the world and it’s key that you have an understanding of how you may be perceived and/or treated in your host country due to your identities.
Navigating your racial/ ethnic identity in another country may be similar to your experience in the U.S. or the complete opposite. For example, you may experience a greater sense of community overseas, encounter increased racism, or a combination of both. Furthermore, your nationality (typically, the country stated on your passport) may even take precedence while you are abroad. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college.
The Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience. Talking with other students of similar racial/ethnic backgrounds who have traveled overseas can be a great resource to help you become more aware of these new dynamics and give you some ideas about how to navigate your specific identities in a new culture.
Like coming to U-M, studying abroad can provide tools to enhance the skills that you will need to advance in your future career. Studying abroad can provide many opportunities to gain perspective on how your host country addresses certain areas in relation to your field of study while allowing you to foster meaningful intercultural relationships within your host country.
If you’re a first-time traveler, health and safety concerns may very well be on your family’s mind. It’s important to communicate with your family during every step of the application process, and education-abroad advisors are here to help you address any questions or concerns you or your family may have prior to departure. Here are just a few points you may want to consider talking to your family about. All U-M affiliated programs have been carefully vetted by departments/units/ colleges. U-M offers affordable health insurance for all students traveling internationally. It is likely that U-M affiliated programs work with third-party providers that can assist you on the ground during your program. Lastly, if your program is led by a U-M faculty, you’ll be traveling with someone experienced who has likely planned out a detailed agenda that includes excursions and curriculum.