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Mentor Advice

Question

What, if any, concerns did you have about racism while studying abroad and what were your experiences actually like once abroad?

6 Replies from Mentors

  • mentor picture Destinee
     
    Destinee
    Junior Year Student
    University of California, Los Angeles
    Before I left I did not have very many concerns about racism. I am half Black and have always lived...
    Before I left I did not have very many concerns about racism. I am half Black and have always lived in places where I was the minority. I was used to being a little different than most people but was never really troubled by it. While abroad I did not suffer from racism but did have a realization that shocked me somewhat. After a few weeks in Italy I noticed that I had not seen anyone else who looked like me. There were Italians, other Europeans and some Africans but no one seemed to be half-Italian, half-Black. I had not expected Italy to be so lacking in the diversity I was accustomed to in America. People seemed more curious about me and I was whispered about quite a bit but that was basically the extent of it.
  • mentor picture Kemi
     
    Kemi
    Programming and Outreach Coordinator at an independent film co-op
    Victoria Society of Independent Film Makers
    The importance of being represented internationally brings me to an occurring concern that I have...
    The importance of being represented internationally brings me to an occurring concern that I have had traveling abroad: would I experience racism abroad? The irony is that racism is something that I had experienced everyday, but it was a racism I knew. Going abroad meant the possibility of not only dealing with an evil I didn’t know, but also, the inability to surround myself with a supportive community. I would be on my own. As I rode the train from Tokyo to Mie Ken, the village where I had been assigned to teach in Japan as part of the JET program, I remember thinking, “will the teachers and students at my school be disappointed that I don’t fit the image of real Americans- “blonde-hair blue-eye” authenticity. After all, I had already been informed that I would be the first African American to teach in this village. I may have been the first African American to teach there, but I met a Kenyan woman who had immigrated to Mie Ken and we shared many common cultural perspectives. Nonetheless, I was surprised that everywhere I traveled, my Japanese host had heard about racism in the states. After traveling to both Japan and Mexico, I realized that traveling to places with different histories and experiences meant that many of the racialized identities which were imposed upon me in the U.S. were not ingrained into the discourses of Mexico and Japan. Racism does exist in other societies, but being black in the U.S. means something different from being black in Japan or Mexico.
  • mentor picture Isabel
     
    Isabel
    Junior Year Student
    Loyola Marymount University
    Because I am of Hispanic heritage and had knowledge of the language before studying abroad in...
    Because I am of Hispanic heritage and had knowledge of the language before studying abroad in Madrid, I did not have any concerns about racism while studying abroad. However, I did travel to various countries where Spanish was not the official language and although it was sometimes a struggle to communicate, I did not encounter racism, as most locals were eager to help.
  • mentor picture Ashley
     
    Ashley
    Junior Year Student
    Loyola Marymount University
    I was not worried about racism before I left and I didn’t really feel any racism while I was...
    I was not worried about racism before I left and I didn’t really feel any racism while I was abroad. I’m sure this was partly because I was in the city of London, where they are very accepting and diverse already as opposed to a culture with only one dominant race. Although I am of a mixed background, most European people would classify me as “American,” rather than Japanese and Portuguese, which are my nationalities. I felt some people could be somewhat discriminatory toward Americans just because of their take on America and our leaders, but never really toward my race specifically.
 
 
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