Racialized Students

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels


We encourage all VIU students to study abroad, regardless of cultural background. As you research study abroad programs and start the process, you may want to consider how your perceived ethnicity and identity might be understood differently abroad. Be aware of your own cultural assumptions and expectations, and research sites you might be considering so you know what to expect when you go abroad.

Thinking through how you will handle issues related to your identity and researching potential host countries will better prepare you to make an informed decision so you can maximize your international experience. We have compiled a list of resources and information to assist you in your exploration for the right Education Abroad program. Ask your program coordinator to provide country-specific information on the racial climate in places you might be considering. We want to support you as much as possible, so please let us know what questions or concerns you have.

Information was resourced and adapted from: ALLABROAD.us page, Diversity Issues in Study Abroad-Brown University, and Study Abroad Matters page. 

  • How is my race/ethnicity perceived in the study abroad destinations that I'm considering? Are there stereotypes associated with my race/ethnicity?
  • What are the cultural norms of my study abroad destination? Are there religious/cultural institutions or practices that they adhere to?
  • Do any of the destinations I'm considering have a history of prejudice/discrimination or acceptance/inclusion with my ethnic group?
  • Am I going to be treated the same way abroad as I am in Canada? Will I be perceived as a minority or majority for the first time?
  • Is there a history of ethnic or racial tension in the countries I'm considering? If so, is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity or religion?
  • Are there laws governing race relations? Ethnic relations? What protections are offered to ethnic or racial minorities?
  • How will I react if I encounter racism or other discriminatory behaviour?
  • Is it likely that I will experience discrimination in my host country?  Historically, have people of colour experienced discrimination in my host country?
  • How is my racial and/or ethnic group perceived in my host country?  What stereotypes should I be aware of?
  • Will I be able to find appropriate hair care and skin care products and services in my host country?
  • What types of experiences do students of colour typically have on the programs (or in the country) I am considering?
  • For HERITAGE SEEKERS: Are you planning to study in the country where your parents are from but have never been there before and/or don't speak the language? How might this affect your experience abroad? Can you contact other heritage students who may have done this before to learn from their experiences?
  • Assumptions about the social groups associated with your nationality may cause others abroad to question your origins, they may ask you about your nationality and cultural heritage. It is important to recognize these questions are most likely a result of a lack of awareness about social demographics rather than prejudice
  • You may also encounter curious locals if you are visiting a racially homogenous area. If it makes you uncomfortable, politely express your discomfort and they will most likely respect your boundaries. If they are making you feel unsafe, reach out to your support network, the institution or program, or education abroad for additional resources and support.
  • Social support in your travel destination and at home can help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new racial/ethnic relations. Always carry a list of who to contact when you feel like your race or ethnic background are being discriminated against while abroad.
  • Complete some research before you depart about any race-specific products that you use to see if they are available/ accessible in your travel abroad destination (ex: hair and beauty products). Always plan to bring extra ahead of time.
  • A strong support system of family and friends at home may also help you deal with any challenges abroad, including feelings of isolation, homesickness and culture shock.
  • Researching and understanding the social and historical situation in your study abroad destination can also help you to prepare for the transition on your study abroad trip, as well as how to transition home. This helps you prepare for any incidents, barriers or issues that may arise.
  • You may also find it empowering to facilitate conversations about race and ethnicity, however you are participating in a study abroad trip so don’t feel pressured to explain your identity to everyone.
  • Do choose activities and opportunities that suit you and that you have identified as safe
  • Remember it is not your duty to educate everyone on your identity- enjoy this experience for its education purposes and self-discovery.
  • Also remember that discrimination may lead to violence. Put your safety as a main priority and trust your instincts. Make sure someone always knows where you are, even if it’s a trusted friend in your home country that you check in with regularly.