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Mentor Advice

Question

What advice do you have for students who will be studying abroad in a country of their heritage?

4 Replies from Mentors

  • mentor picture Yating Haller
     
    Yating Haller
    Assistant Director
    Global Engineering Program, Purdue University
    They are about to embark on a soul searching emotional roller-coaster ride!! I would advise...
    They are about to embark on a soul searching emotional roller-coaster ride!! I would advise students to read as much about their cultural roots and history as possible before the trip, and try to examine what they experience overseas using many sets of lenses. Students should understand that whatever they encounter in a country of their heritage ---The good, the bad, and even the ugly --- has some significance in defining the way they are and understanding why things are done the way they are! As long as students maintain an open mind, it should be very interesting for them!!
  • mentor picture Carol Larson
     
    Carol Larson
    Director of Management, Study Abroad Office
    University of Pittsburgh
    Study abroad is a positive way for African American students to examine their heritage because...
    Study abroad is a positive way for African American students to examine their heritage because they learn about where their family came from and can explore their own identity. However, the heritage-seeking experience may be more challenging than that for other students because of pre-conceived notions that because your ethnicity is the same, your culture and attitudes will be the same. An African American student cannot simply assume that you will be welcomed with open arms - you are an American in a foreign country. Think how we in American receive foreign visitors - in most cases we see them as different from us until we have the opportunity to get to know that person for who he/she is. That same exact thing applies when you are abroad. Go with an open mind - allow yourself to absorb the culture and to adapt and to slowly become part of the culture; you will then be accepted for the person you are. Just as we in America are curious about someone from a different culture, and we hopefully want to learn about him/her, it is no different abroad - they do not understand our culture and want to learn and we as an American have an opportunity to teach them and to learn in return. Whether you are in Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America, students in all parts of the world are curious about each others universities, music, clothing, language, dating, TV programs, sports, etc. - embrace those differences. Try to begin your journey with very few pre-conceived expectations, go with an open mind, and learn what is beautiful about another culture.

    My son, a multi-racial/African American student, has grown immeasurably from his experiences: first in the Afro-Brazilian culture, where after a short time he was a willing part of the culture; and second in China and Mongolia, where he was the object of curiosity because in many cases he was the first black man they had seen. Once the Chinese got to know him and found he had hip-hop on his IPod, a friendship was born. Understand that as these special challenges exist, study abroad can provide insights and personal growth for African American students that can open the way for educating others and accepting each other as it did for my son and other students I work with as a study abroad administrator."
 
 
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