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Race, Ethnicity and Nationality

Depending on where you study abroad, the color of your skin, hair, eyes, or other physical features, as well as your national, ancestral or linguistic heritage could lead to interactions that may be uncomfortable, challenging, ladled with assumptions, or clashing viewpoints.

Race, Ethnicity and Nationality:

It is important to understand there may be a discrepancy between how you perceive aspects of your racial, ethnic, or national identity and how individuals in your host community may perceive it. For example, when introducing yourself as an “American “abroad, you may think Americans are perceived positively in the world; however, you may come to find that you meet individuals with negative perceptions and views of Americans and American politics. Or perhaps you are confronted with the question, “Where are you really from?” after sharing your nationality.

In order to navigate these difficult interactions in an effective manner, here are some questions for consideration:

  1. Which aspects of your physical identity such as the color of your skin and hair, or your national, ancestral or linguistic heritage are highlighted or questioned here in the U.S.? Which do you not have to think about? Why might that be?
  2. What are the racial and ethnic majority/minority groups in your host community? Which groups have privilege and power? How might these dynamics affect the way you are perceived by the host community?
  3. How have aspects of your racial, ethnic, or national identity been historically marginalized or treated in the host community?
  4. What laws, customs, and attitudes do the host country have about aspects of your ethnic, racial or national identity? How might these affect the way you are treated?

 On-Campus Resources:

  • Office for Multicultural Learning

    Student and staff facilitated dialogue sessions during academic year for SCU community about various topics pertaining to identity on and off campus.

    • Perspectives Dialogue Sessions
    • Difficult Dialogues

Additional Resources

  • Diversity Abroad

    Preparation tips and strategies for questions about race/ethnic, class, financial, gender, ability, religious, sexual orientation, first generation, and more dynamics abroad.

  • IES Diversity Resources

    Student videos, blogs, and scholarships for racially/ethnically diverse students.

  • All Abroad

    Resources, advice, funding and support networks for African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino students, and Native Americans.


    General resources, links, and scholarships for supporting diverse students abroad.

Elleni Hailuimage

Bronco Perspective

Elleni Hailu

“It was obvious to see that most of the Salvadorans have not had interactions with people of my ethnic background, Asian individuals.  However, they were equally welcoming and loving.  They were intrigued by my skin color and my hairstyle and asked all sorts of questions about the subject matter but were not at all judgmental to the point where I was offended.”

Jason Nguyenimage

Bronco Perspective

Jason Nguyen

"At first, I thought that we, Americans, have a better understanding of race and ethnicity, but then I realized that many of us assume all Hispanics are Mexicans and all Asians are Chinese as well, and we do not have as much of an excuse, due to our diversity."

Marie McNamaraimage

Bronco Perspective

Marie McNamara

“One thing I noticed while abroad was how ethnic diversity and people with mixed races were less common.”

Olivia Chamblissimage

Bronco Perspective

Olivia Chambliss

“My experience as a young black woman in a Latin American country differed from that of my white classmates.  I did not experience much in the way of harassment and I did not draw too much attention.  Many locals were surprised to learn that I was from the United States because they assumed I was from an African country.  It was an interesting experience, to say the least.”

Gus Hardyimage

Bronco Perspective

Gus Hardy

“Due to the influence of Spanish colonizers, the Philippines tends to equate white skin with beauty, to the point where if you get a passport photo taken of yourself (like we had to do at one point), they will photoshop you to make you look whiter.”