Cultural and racial diversity are significant factors for students in choosing a study abroad program. Attitudes toward race differ widely across the globe, and reactions to racial differences can range from tolerance to intolerance, from acceptance to discrimination.
For some students, traveling abroad may be the first time they have to deal with their own feelings toward people whose racial backgrounds are different from their own. It can also be the first time they realize that others perceive them to be racially different. Stereotypes about race exist in all cultures and can sometimes lead to prejudice, discrimination or harassment.
What should you do if you experience prejudice while abroad?
- Know that you may encounter prejudice or discrimination abroad. Being intellectually prepared for it may help you to cope with it.
- Don’t take it personally. Racism is not directed at you personally but to a generalized perception or stereotype about the group to which you belong.
- Understand that racism is an irrational reaction. Once people get to know you, their prejudice may disappear.
- Take the initiative to educate others about your own ethnic background. Acknowledging racial differences need not be an occasion for strife; it can be an opportunity to help others understand these differences. If you encounter race issues or find yourself in racially tense situations while traveling abroad, feel free to talk with your resident director, in-country contact or another member of your group.