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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

Race and Ethnicity Abroad


IAP encourages all students to study abroad, but recognizes that students of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds may face unique challenges, because definitions of race vary from culture to culture.

Students may encounter a broad range of attitudes regarding diversity issues that may result in stares, comments or blatant prejudice by the host population. There may be people who will be eager to touch your hair or skin. Often people in your host country will be curious, and some may ask questions about your cultural heritage that feel insensitive. Keep in mind that people in other countries have different cultural norms and are often more blunt and less "politically correct" compared to the United States.

Things to think about before going abroad

At IAP we encourage all students to do research into social norms and cultural practices of the host country before leaving to study abroad. IAP staff members are available to answer questions about the study abroad process and to help you to understand how diversity issues may be experienced and understood differently abroad.

Here are a few example questions to help you think about race and ethnicity abroad:

Learning About Your Heritage

Some students choose programs in their family’s country/region of origin. That experience can be fulfilling, but often students also start to redefine their identity as an American. Read more about Heritage seekers here.

Your Support Network Abroad

Leaving your friends and family at home to go to another country can be a daunting decision. We encourage you to carefully select the program that will best fit your needs. IAP offers programs with varying levels of support on-site. Programs range from those for very independent students who want to study directly in another university to those for strictly UW-students who need or want lots of support, with a multitude of options falling in between. Talk with your Study Abroad Advisor about the level of support you’d like on a program and they can help you select the right program for you. Build a support network with other study abroad students on your program, so that if you do experience discrimination you'll have support to deal with it.

Your Support At Home

Some students are hesitant to study abroad because of family responsibilities or commitments to friends and family. As you are deciding to study abroad, be sure to include your family and friends. Get them excited about your program too. IAP has resources for parents as well that we're happy to share with you.

Check out these resources for additional information

Creating Community - UW'S own center for diversity here on campus. Includes information about the University of Wisconsin Cultural Centers.

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

All Abroad - This site offers mentors who are students, parents, and advisers and are comfortable with addressing diversity concerns in the context of learning abroad. Also available are specific resources for African-American, Asian Pacific Islander American, Hispanic-American and Native-American students.

Asian American: Factors Influencing the Decisions to Study Abroad - This article discusses the factors that can influence where and why Asian Americans study abroad.

Top 10 reasons for African American Students to go abroad - This article lists specific benefits for African American students to study abroad.

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

PLATO - This website lists scholarship and financial aid information for students of color in higher education and study abroad.