Discrimination abroad

There are a lot of things that go through a student’s mind while preparing for studies abroad. Finding an appropriate accommodation, the fear of relocating to a new place, leaving the luxuries of a home life to live all alone, making new friends, etc. During such a time, one of the things that probably never cross a student’s mind has to deal with discrimination. However, racial discrimination can become a very real concern for students heading to less racially diverse countries.


Racial discrimination is not always intended, which makes it worse, because the person discriminating against you probably doesn’t even know that they are treating you differently than they would treat others. Unintended discrimination is called micro aggression. As study abroad experts we ensure that we educate our students on these matters before hand.


What are the appropriate responses to such experiences?

Remember that it’s not your fault: A lot of microaggression victims tend to think of themselves as the problem. They think they’re being overly sensitive and that their reaction is exaggerated.


Talk about it. Discrimination is one of the issues that students of color are often worried about prior to departure. Yet, these concerns are typically ignored or minimized. This is unfortunate as these experiences can and, most likely, will occur. Therefore, you must be proactive!


Consider using peer-to-peer counselors. Students of color who go abroad can serve as great ambassadors for study abroad programs. Not only can they tell other students about their experiences and programs but they can also discuss ways that they coped while abroad. While supporting other students should not fall squarely on the shoulders of past students, they can be valuable resources for other students who are contemplating going abroad, 3RDiCOnsulting also tries to do this through its alums.


Gather data on critical incidents. When students return from their study abroad experiences there needs to be a systematic collection of critical incidents. Students should be able to provide their assessment of programs and specifically state whether they felt attended to and cared for in relation to experiences of discrimination.


Provide access to professional psychological resources.  At times students may need access to professional psychological resources. Each study abroad site should anticipate that this may be a need and be prepared to provide such services should the need arise. Such mental health professionals should be knowledgeable about the anxieties and fears that students of color may have when studying abroad.


Question their Statement: It makes complete sense that you wouldn’t want to risk your relationship with them for what seems to be nothing more than a small comment for them. But if it hurts you, you need to tell them. Question their comment by asking them what they mean by it.


Make Your Decision: Just because you can educate someone about racial disparities, does not mean you’re under any obligation to do so. You can if you want to, but if you’d prefer to walk away because you can’t stand them, you can do that as well.


Talk about the action, not the person: To avoid someone getting defensive about their racial comments, it is recommended to focus on the racial comment or action, and not the person perpetrating it.


Your education is a very important factor for your career, but it is the experiences that you have when you’re away from your comfort zone that make you the person you’re supposed to be.