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Mentor Advice

Question

What advice can you provide for parents who are worried about safety and racism while abroad?

4 Replies from Mentors

  • mentor picture LaNitra Berger
     
    LaNitra Berger
    Senior Manager of Research and Policy
    NAFEO
    Many students experience brutal, ugly racism in the United States every day. Therefore, fear...
    Many students experience brutal, ugly racism in the United States every day. Therefore, fear of experiencing racism should not deter students from studying abroad. Parents should understand that studying abroad can be a liberating experience for students of color, who may view their racial identity in a more positive way after spending time in a country where they are not judged based on stereotypes. In most cases, people in foreign countries are interested in meeting Americans and learning about American culture, and they are not preoccupied with skin color in the same way that Americans are. However, racism is something that can occur abroad. Information is your best ally in feeling comfortable in sending your child abroad. It’s important to read about the host country’s history and to be aware of any current events that may shed some light on race relations in that country.

    Safety is also a major concern when traveling abroad. Check the State Department website for the host country to find out if there are any travel warnings or advisories. If there are, you should think carefully about whether the potential risks will hinder your student’s study abroad experience. The threat of terrorist attacks in European capitals has made parents more cautious about sending their students to popular study abroad destinations. Although the threat should be taken seriously, talking to your student about the potential dangers and making an emergency action plan will help build confidence that your student will be safe when they depart. Wherever you go, it’s important to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times and to listen to your “gut instincts” in uncertain situations.

  • mentor picture Kenya Casey
     
    Kenya Casey
    Study Abroad Advisor
    Emory University
    Safety is a concern for most parents, understandably so. My approach is to educate the parents...
    Safety is a concern for most parents, understandably so. My approach is to educate the parents about the resources that are available on campus and abroad. Many times the students are not sharing the information they have received with their parents. Most programs provide pre-departure materials with detailed information about health and safety, parents should ask for copies. Parents may not be aware of the online resources, so I direct them to the US Department of State’s travel website at http://www.travel.state.gov/. In addition, I encourage the parent to inquire whether his/her daughter has registered online with the US Embassy of the country being visited. It is important that students and parents do research on the political, social and economic situation of the country the student is visiting. With the knowledge gained from their research, students will have a better understating of the history and current state of the country. Racism exists abroad, just as it does here in America. Parents should talk openly with their children about racism, sexism, and the class system. Sometimes having a former study abroad participant speak with the parent or child helps ease their concerns
  • mentor picture Tony Laing
     
    Tony Laing
    Ph.D. Candidate at Education Policy Studies and AFRO Studies
    University of Illinois – Urbana, Champaign
    Regarding safety, parents should repeatedly remind their kids to trust their own...
    Regarding safety, parents should repeatedly remind their kids to trust their own instincts. Oftentimes, “…our bodies sense danger before our minds can register what that danger actually is…” Travel in groups and consider developing a code word with friends, while abroad. This word should only be used when a group member gets a feeling that something isn’t right. If this word is used, it means everyone gets up to leave immediately - no questions asked. Parents should also inquiry with their kid’s host school for publicized documentation on safety. I also recommend the following online resources:

    If parents still have concerns, I might recommend that they contact the program provider/school responsible for coordinating their child’s enrollment and look for answers to their questions.

    Acts of racism are common worldwide. Fortunately in the United States, there are laws to protect all citizens from these extreme acts of discrimination/hatred. Unfortunately, this may not be the case in other parts of the world. My advice to parents would be to talk with their children and discuss ways to respond and/or walk away, if encountered.

  • mentor picture Anthony Yuen
     
    Anthony Yuen
    Outreach, Communications & Marketing
    Summer Sessions, Study Abroad & Lifelong Learning
    One of the wonderful aspects about studying abroad is the opportunity to interact with...
    One of the wonderful aspects about studying abroad is the opportunity to interact with diverse societies and cultures, and learn how they perceive difference and manage those differences. In some countries, race and ethnicity are subtle, lingering in the background, while in other countries, they are very real issues that manifest themselves in daily life, sometimes in negative or threatening ways.

    When considering study abroad and preparing for departure, it's important for students to familiarize themselves with the history and dynamics in their study abroad countries, and for students to consider how their ethnicity and appearance may be perceived by residents of the host country. Students should work with their international offices and universities to address concerns about safety and racism, and to identify resources that will help them stay safe while still enjoying the adventure of studying abroad.

 
 
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