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Most Memorable Moment

The people I’ve met here are great. I’ve learned so much from them and I feel like I’ve made lifetime friends. Almost every conversation is shared over food and drinks, and because of that, I feel really connected to the culture here (food smells will always remind me of Korea).

Mai Chou Her

East Asian Studies Certificate/Undecided major
IAP Seoul, South Korea



Heritage Seekers

Many students choose to study abroad to learn more about their ancestry — these students are known as heritage seekers. The Institute of International Education has coined the term "heritage seeker" as a student who is drawn to study abroad in a particular country and culture "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar." Going abroad will give you a chance to learn more about your ancestral history and the culture today firsthand.

Often going to your ancestral homeland can be a very emotional experience, because you're choosing the location not just for the academics but for personal reasons as well. We've talked with students who went abroad to learn the language of their parents, so that they can feel more connected to all parts of their heritage. The type of experience you'll have abroad will vary-some students have come home feeling more connected to their ancestral roots while others are more appreciative of their American roots.

Heritage seekers at times have idealized views of their ancestral homes, so it is important to go into the country with an open mind. Heritage students should be prepared to be seen as an outsider, although often a welcome one, in the local community. Local community members may have high expectations regarding the cultural knowledge and linguistic capabilities of heritage seeking students. Often in the U.S., people will ask about your ancestral background and someone will reply, "I'm Irish, French, and German.", but abroad, you will be seen as an American. Some students will be able to meet with relatives, while others will just be learning more about their ancestral history.

Some Things to Consider:

Below are some resources to start some of this research

Seeking Your Roots - An article from a UT-Austin student magazine.

Diversity Abroad - site offers tips and insights related to multicultural issues while studying abroad.

Heritage Seeking & Study Abroad - An article on common themes found from a case study on heritage seekers on study abroad programs.

Towards Reconciliation in the Motherland: Race, Class, Nationality, Gender, and the Complexities of American Student Presence at the University of Ghana, Legon - An article written about experiences at the University of Ghana, Legon.