What About Discrimination
For Asian/ Pacific Islander Students
Today, Asian / Pacific Islander American students have many reasons to study around the globe, but unfortunately no place is perfectly free of ignorance, racism or discrimination. Just like at home in the U.S., you may find various levels of acceptance by some people and discrimination by others while abroad. Asian American students should be aware that these problems do exist in various degrees in other countries, but this should not prevent you from traveling. There may actually be opportunities for you to be a positive influence on those you meet. You should feel free to travel to your places of interest (unless there is a civil unrest that may affect your safety. Please research your destination thoroughly before you travel. You can start with the U.S. Department of State's travel warnings at http://www.state.gov/travel/). Many students have entirely positive experiences when exploring their roots or exploring another culture.
Asian American students who have traveled abroad often report that their experiences abroad differ greatly from the experiences they have in the United States. Although they may encounter a few prolonged stares or what seem to be intrusive questions, the countries where this is an issue for Asian students are usually homogenous countries. The people they encounter may have never seen an Asian person and may just be curious. A student studying in Argentina described this experience: "Ethnically, being South Asian I stuck out, but it wasn't in a bad way. People didn't know where I was from and when they found out, they were curious."
Living in another country can also be a liberating experience. Asian / Pacific Islander American study abroad returnees often report another interesting experience: Many who travel to countries in Asia are often surprised that they are seen not as Asian Americans, but simply as Americans. On the other hand, many people who do not see you as a stereotypical American might not treat you differently, allowing you to blend in more easily. In any case, studying abroad can certainly give you rare and unique opportunities to examine discrimination (or lack thereof) in different contexts. This may be a great opportunity for you to be both a student and teacher of cultural understanding in our diverse world.