Global learning abroad can yield great academic, personal, and professional benefits for students. It is an opportunity to connect with communities and histories outside of North America; a chance to simultaneously deepen routes with the past and carve out future possibilities.
Students have different motivations and experience different benefits when taking part in a global learning program and may face different challenges. This webpage aims to support racialized students in their exploration and engagement of these considerations.
Ultimately, you know yourself, your needs, and your goals best. Our office is here to support you with learning and preparation throughout your journey. We have curated a list questions, support services, and resources to aid in this.
We recognize that students who identify as racialized are not a homogenous group and we are working diligently to ensure this webpage is representative of this diversity. We encourage you to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have concerns about the webpage and/or ideas for its growth.
This information was adapted with thanks from the work of the following universities:
- Brown University’s Identity and Culture Abroad webpage
- Iowa State University’s Study Abroad Center’s Diversity webpage
- The University of Maryland - Education Abroad's Students of Color Abroad webpage
- Portland Community College’s Education Abroad’s Students of Color webpage
- Toronto Metropolitan University's Identity Abroad Racialised Students webpage
- What is motivating you to considering studying abroad? Spend some time reflecting on your goals and dreams before diving into research. This will help you determine which programs and destinations you wish to look at!
- We hear all sorts of reasons from students and one that’s very common is connection. This could be connection to the past or the future. Consider the types of global connections you hope to make while studying abroad. Let these questions begin your reflection.
- Common advice we give students as they prepare to study abroad is: maintain connections with people and things that ground you. This could be family, friends, hobbies, and community. You can do this by making a plan before you depart to stay connected with home while also planning time to connect with new communities and people abroad!
- In Canada or your home country, your race/ethnicity may be a defining factor of your identity. However, assumptions about the social groups associated with your nationality may cause others abroad to question your origins. They might ask you questions about your nationality and cultural heritage, even after you've already stated it. For example, as a racialized person you might be asked where are you “really” from, after you already stated your nationality.
- Everyone needs different items and services to feel their most comfortable and secure. Consider what these are in your life and ask whether you might be able to access them in a host community.
- What excites or interests me about experiencing life and studies in a different community?
- Are there racialized communities in my (prospective) host country city that I identify with? Is it important for me to have access to such communities while abroad or would I be okay without them? Are there any intersecting identities I carry that should be considered in preparing to find community?
- What other identities do I have that I can consider? Make sure to check out the other resources on this website to reflect on other important considerations.
- Is there a relationship between my (prospective) host country, home country and/or place of racial or ethnic origin? What is the nature of this relationship?
The below questions can provide some guidance for learning how race may be perceived and engaged with in different parts of the world.
- How is my race perceived in my (prospective) host country? Are there stereotypes about my race there?
- Is there a history of ethnic or racial tension in my (prospective) country/region? Is the situation currently hostile to members of my particular race or ethnicity?
- What is the nature of the relationship between police or authorities and racialized communities in my (prospective) host country?
- What are the current politics of in my (prospective) host country? Which political party holds power and what are their values?
- What types of experiences do racialized students typically have in my (prospective) host country? How can I learn about this?
- What kinds of support can I access in my (prospective) host country if I encounter racism? You may choose to familiarize yourself with the below resources, like International SOS, before departure.
- Can I access services and find products that are important to me in my (prospective) host city? If not or unknown, can I prepare to bring them with me or access them from abroad?
Finding Community Abroad
- Are there student groups or clubs for racialized students on campus?
- Social support in your destination country and at home can help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new racial/ethnic relations. Know whom to contact when you feel like your race or ethnic background are discriminated against while abroad.
- Make a list of safe people in your life who you can contact to discuss your experiences. These folks might be particularly important if you do feel unsafe during your experience. Making this list in advance of departing will ensure you have a network of support throughout your experience.
- Do your research about any race-specific products that you use to see if they are available in the destination region (e.g. hair and beauty products). Plan to bring with you if needed.
- Keep updated on local news from your prospective host community to better understand events and perspectives. Consider the lens used to write news.
- Keep updated on your host community by following social media groups, both international and local.
- Having a support system of family and friends may also help you deal with feelings of isolation and culture shock
- Contact your Queen’s Faculty International Office to see if they can put you in touch with someone who previously studied abroad and shares your identities. Talking with peers can be a helpful and authentic way to inform your study abroad decisions.
You may find it empowering to facilitate conversations about race and ethnicity 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 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 discriminated against contact your Queen’s Faculty International Office for assistance.
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 Queen’s Faculty International Office is available to offer support and connect you to resources.
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).
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.
SWS has also contracted with local mental health professional E.L. Adams who is providing individual counselling sessions and group support for Black-identified students.
Please note that certain SWS services may be unavailable to students living or travelling outside Ontario and/or Canada. Please consult Student Wellness Services for full service details and availability, and information about alternative options.
Yellow House is a safe, comfortable, and accountable space for queer, racialized, marginalized students to create community, to feel empowered, to empower others, and to celebrate and to honour their histories. The clubs in Yellow House are:
You may find it helpful to speak with folks in the Yellow House if you have concerns about how your identity may be perceived by other cultures while studying abroad.
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).
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 considering/travelling to.
iSOS also offers short-term counselling to students living or studying abroad.
- Advice for Black People and Ethnic Minorities on a Year Abroad: An honest reflection of studying abroad in Europe while Black. In 2013 Anita Barton-Williams wrote an article about their experiences studying in Spain as a Black person with the goal of providing advice to other students.
- Diversity Abroad: A US-based website that seeks to promote study abroad opportunities. The site includes blogs, profiles, and forums from students studying abroad.
- Encounters of Another Colour: In 1987 Stephanie Griffith wrote an article for the New York Times detailing their experiences traveling as a Black person in various countries.
- Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales - Latinx Perspectives: A free e-book by GoAbroad.
- On She Goes: A digital travel platform that helps women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often. The site is currently under construction but we encourage you to check out their Instagram profile and podcast!
- Race Abroad: A guide for “American students of colour preparing to live abroad” by the Glimpse Foundation. Includes student experiences and results of a survey conducted with racialized American students who studied abroad.
- Race and Ethnicity: A Letter from a Loyola Student who Studied Abroad: Juli Smith, a student from Loyola University in New Orleans, wrote a letter to racialized students wishing to study abroad, providing honest reflections from their time in Taiwan.
- Support Diversity in Study Abroad Resources: A US-based resource by The Center for Global Education of PLATO: Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach.
- What Nobody Says About Studying Abroad While Black: It Kinda Sucks, and Here’s Why: An honest reflection on a Black student’s exchange in England. The student reflects on both the racism they experienced and why they are still glad they studied abroad.
#StudyAbroadSoBlack: A popular hashtag on Instagram created by Howard University. You can follow this hashtag to see stories from Black students studying abroad.