Studying and living in another country can help you reflect on your own culture and identity. Understanding other cultures can help shed a new light on your own culture and can help you to understand how your culture connects with the entire world. Other possible reasons you may want to study abroad are to:
- Learn about other Indigenous nations and cultures.
- Bring new comparative perspectives to Indigenous communities back home.
- Educate the international community about Indigenous peoples’ culture and values.
- Help build your own nation through sharing the skills, experiences, and connections gained abroad.
As an Indigenous student you may have specific questions about participating in global learning programs. We also recognise that some students have responsibilities in their families or communities that prevent them from being away from home for an extended period of time.
We understand there is no one, singular Indigenous experience. To help you organize your thoughts, our office has compiled the following resources to help you through the process. The goal of these resources is to ensure you can make an informed decision about global learning abroad. As you navigate these resources, feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have.
This information was adapted with thanks from the work of the following universities:
- Toronto Metropolitan University's Identity Abroad Indigenous Students webpage
- Northern Arizona University's Indigenous student success abroad webpage
- You may wish to consider to what extent it is important for you to connect with Indigenous communities in your host country, and what that might look like for you. You may decide it is beneficial to gear your initial search toward countries where Indigenous Peoples are more visible and supported and potentially have greater rights and self-determination, and then do some further online research about Indigenous communities and organisations in your potential destination. If you know of an Indigenous person who has either studied abroad or visited that location, you may want to ask them about their experiences.
- Think about the resources that you currently have and/or use at Queen’s, Kingston and/or your home location. We encourage you to investigate the types of resources that may or may not exist in your potential global learning abroad location.
- Finances for study abroad are a consideration for many students regardless of race/ethnicity and community. Queen’s and other organizations offer special scholarships for exchange and study abroad, and financial aid (e.g., OSAP) can be applied to many programs.
- If you are receiving funding from your community/band/Nation you may wish to ensure that your funding can be used for your global opportunity. Tuition for Queen’s programs such as exchange and BISC is paid to Queen’s and will normally be covered, but tuition for non-Queen’s programs may not be covered. If you need assistance with this, please connect with Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre’s Indigenous Student Adviser – Jessica Parks – at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discrimination and Race Abroad
We hope that global learning will be a positive academic and personal experience. Unfortunately, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are not limited to Canadian society and Indigenous peoples in, and travelling to, other parts of the world can experience discrimination because of their Indigenous identity.
Discrimination can also lead to violence. At all times, make safety your goal. You will often be the first person to know if a situation is becoming unsafe. Trust your instincts, and do not do anything or go anywhere if you’re not comfortable in doing so. Contact someone you trust for support and know that your Faculty International Office is available to offer support and connect you to resources.
Preparing for a global learning opportunity is often a brand-new experience, and you may not know the full range of considerations that may help you plan most effectively. Here are a few questions that may be helpful to ask yourself as an Indigenous student:
- Who is perceived as Indigenous in my destination country, and how is that perception different than my experience as an Indigenous person in Kingston/Canada?
- Are there stereotypes that exist about Indigenous people in my destination country? How are local Indigenous groups perceived there?
- What is the relationship between my destination country and my home country?
- If staying with a host family, have they accommodated Indigenous students before? If not, will this be an issue for me or for them?
- What kind of groups or organizations exist in my host city or program for my ethnic/racial group? What resources are available to me there?
- Will I have access to Elders? To Indigenous health and medicine?
- Will I be able to bring sacred or ceremonial items into my destination country? Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have very strict biological material restrictions and may confiscate items without special permits.
- How comfortable am I reaching out to local Indigenous communities and student groups at my host university for support?
While abroad, others might identify you as Canadian first, as opposed to Indigenous. Many people may not be aware of the history of settler colonialism in Canada, or the effects it has to this day on Indigenous nations and communities. How might you handle that situation? Would you want to explain that history to someone unfamiliar with Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples?
People in other countries might ask insensitive questions about your cultural heritage, physical features, or national origins. Some may even believe that Indigenous peoples in Canada do not exist. This may be the case particularly in homogenous regions where people have had limited contact with people outside of their region. These questions are most likely a result of a lack of awareness about the demographics of Canada, or the reality of settler colonialism and its impacts, rather than prejudice. However, we recognise that regardless of intention, the impact remains.
You may find it empowering to facilitate conversations about your Indigenous identity in your destination country. However, you are participating in a global learning activity to make the most of your experience – don’t feel pressured to explain your identity to everyone all the time. Choose opportunities that suit you and that you have identified as safe and inclusive to have this conversation. It isn’t your job to educate anyone in your destination country on your identity – you’re abroad for your own personal growth and education.
Conversations like those noted above may take place with other students on your global learning abroad program. Some students find it more difficult to work through issues with other students on the program than they do with individuals from the destination country. Be prepared for these situations as well. If you ever feel unsafe, or feel that the discrimination is overwhelming, contact your Faculty International Office for non-immediate assistance.
Are you interested in incorporating courses that reflect indigenous content as part of your academic goals? The list below highlights some of Queen’s University’s current exchange partner universities with indigenous course content. This is not an exhaustive list and courses may change from year to year at our partners bringing with them new opportunities.
We also list Indigenous support centres at those host universities. We recognise there is no universal Indigenous experience however these centres may be better equipped to support you than other resources and are well-placed to help you engage with the local Indigenous community.
There are many support services available to aid you on your journey, but sometimes it is hard to know where to begin. Below we have outlined various internal and external support services you may wish to connect with while thinking about and/or participating on a study abroad program:
Services and Supports at Queen's
Your Faculty International Office
This office can speak with you about the study abroad experience. It can also refer you to the below services (you can also access them without a referral).
4D is committed to supporting your academic, spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. 4D offers a wide range of programming and services that enhance the well-being and development of our Indigenous community right here on campus as well as virtually.
The QNSA is an AMS ratified university club compromised of a diverse group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students that share an interest in Aboriginal cultures and traditions. Undergraduates, graduates and professional students are all represented in the QNSA.
There is a Cross-Cultural Counsellor in this office who can speak with you about any concerns studying abroad in another culture may have on your mental health or wellbeing.
Services and Supports Outside Queen's
Host universities can provide information about opportunities, support services, and experiences. Students can contact them directly or work with their Faculty International Office to initiate contact (for instance, we can help you write an email, send questions on your behalf, and/or meet with you and the host office virtually, or help you with research).
Some universities may have specific supports for Indigenous students that you may be able to access. We recognise there is no universal Indigenous experience however these centres may be better equipped to support you than other resources.
International SOS (iSOS) is a third-party security service available to Queen’s students, faculty, and staff. Students can call into iSOS and speak with a regional expert to learn more about the place they are consider/traveling to.
iSOS also offers short-term counselling to students living or studying abroad.
Social supports can help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new intersectional relations between you and people who hold multiple identities. Consider who you would contact when you feel like you are discriminated against while abroad. Having a support system of family and friends may also help you deal with feelings of isolation and culture shock.
Knowing the social and historical situation in your destination country can help you prepare for the transition from Canada/your home country and back. This can help you be prepared if troubling incidents arise. However, don't expect prejudice to happen either.
- Experience spurred study of own culture - An article about Miranda Livers, a student with Cherokee heritage, who participated in an Indigenous exchange program at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
- How to Engage in Challenging Conversations Abroad - An article from Diversity Abroad.
- Increasing Access for Indigenous Students in International Ed - An article by a staff member of CISAbroad, a private organization that helps students study or intern abroad.
- Reasons to Study Abroad for Native American Students and What About Discrimination for Native American Students - All Abroad U.S. is a U.S. based organization that aims to help students study abroad. While the article is written for U.S. Native American Students, its message has similar implications for Indigenous students in Canada.