Student exploring his surroundings while studying abroad.

Race and Ethnicity

Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture. While abroad, you may be part of an ethnic minority or majority for the first time, or, you might have to think about your identity in a new way.

If you are visiting a country where you have ethnic or racial roots, you may have to consider the local norms and expectations in ways that other students with different backgrounds may not. On the other hand, you might be considered American first, and your ethnic or racial identity will be secondary.

You can prepare yourself by researching the minority, majority, and plurality racial and ethnic composition of your host country and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations.


  • Where do people of my race/ethnicity fit into my host country’s society? Am I likely to be a target of racism/classism, or am I going to be treated the same way in my host country as I am in the US?
  • What are the cultural norms of my host country? Are there religious/cultural institutions or rituals that they adhere to?
  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity or religion?
  • Are issues of racism/ethnic discrimination influenced by immigration in my host country? How do politicized immigration concerns fuel racial tensions? What is the character of immigrant communities?
  • Are there laws in the host country governing race relations? Ethnic relations? What protections are offered to ethnic or racial minorities?


  • Read information on the topic, if available, on the official government website of your host country.
  • Consult international news sources to understand current political and societal issues in your host country.
  • On the CIA World Factbook website, look for your host country’s page and research the “People and Society” section where you'll find the breakdown by ethnic group, religion, and race.
  • Visit the PLATO (Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach) resource page about diversity in study abroad, with information for African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander American, Hispanic-American, and Native American students preparing to study abroad.


  • What are the ethnic, racial, religious, gender identities that characterize you? Reflect and learn how you can expect to be treated in your host country based on these characteristics.
  • Social supports in your host country and at home will help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new race/ethnic relations. Identify support services you can access if you feel you have been the target of discrimination.
  • What are the opportunities you will have as a racial/ethnic minority – either in the US or in your host country? Are there funding opportunities similar to these - Diversity Abroad Scholarships or the IIE Gilman Scholarship (must be Pell Grant eligible).