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Mentor Advice

Question

What advice can you give faculty and administrators for working with underrepresented students in study abroad?

9 Replies from Mentors

  • mentor picture Dawn Anderson
     
    Dawn Anderson
    Housemaster at MIT and a professional photographer
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    1) My immediate response is that they should be sensitive to the fact that these students do not...
    1) My immediate response is that they should be sensitive to the fact that these students do not feel it is an experience for them. That makes the outreach effort more important and needed. We have to beware of the "If we build it they will come" trap. For the most part, students of color will not come unless you make it clear that they will benefit from knowing you and becoming familiar with your programs. They are going to go to those administrators they think are safe and understand their unique concerns. If that isn't you, then work with the person on campus that these students trust.

    2) Make no assumptions as to where they want to go, the type of program they are interested or even their knowledge about study abroad in general.

    3) Keep those students of color, that do break from the ranks and study abroad, close to you. They are helpful when talking about culturally sensitive topics like hair care and racism while abroad.

    4) Also, use other allies like student leaders, financial aid directors, professors (big one), etc...
  • mentor picture Rae Rae
     
    Rae Rae
    Senior Year Student
    Loyola Marymount University
    Try to make that student feel welcome and accepted in the situation. You must strike a balance....
    Try to make that student feel welcome and accepted in the situation. You must strike a balance. You can’t go overboard and be “too nice,” because that person may feel singled out and you may be highlighting their differences, despite your efforts to help. But you should encourage that student to do well and achieve. Underrepresented groups often lack examples of successful participants and therefore might be more easily discouraged than others.
  • mentor picture Danilo Bonilla
     
    Danilo Bonilla
    International Programs Counselor
    UCLA Education Abroad Program
    This administrator urges others in the field to have an awareness of the issues underrepresented students face, in addition to being knowledgeable about their study abroad programs.

  • mentor picture Ana Campos
     
    Ana Campos
    Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Student Housing
    University of Chicago
    The importance and influence of their family, not just parents but extended family, cannot be...
    The importance and influence of their family, not just parents but extended family, cannot be understated or ignored. If their parents are telling them that they cannot study abroad for whatever reason, this is very real to the student and to tell them that they should do what they want, regardless of what their parents want for them, does not take into account the family's influence on them. In some cultures, respecting your elders is paramount. I also think that having a Q&A with students from underrepresented backgrounds would also be a good idea so that students who are considering going see others like themselves having successfully studied abroad and can ask questions that are most important to them.
  • mentor picture Patrick Frazier
     
    Patrick Frazier
    Director of International Education
    Quinnipiac University
    I think minority students that choose to be dramatically different have made the adjustment to...
    I think minority students that choose to be dramatically different have made the adjustment to having to go it alone on special concerns such as minority personal products and grooming options. What those students are most concerned with is how they will be perceived abroad. For example, going to a large white school, a student is prepared to deal with any bias that might occur having lived in the United States but they do not know what will happen in a situation like China or Scandinavia where they might find no people like them or be the first person that the home country sees of that kind. That's where you get into the hair touching and the skin swipes. What would help is a network of minority students that have gone to that country, a liaison with someone there of their ethnicity (state department or consular section might be able to help). What the administrator can do is find out what concerns the student has and find someone who is in country that could answer those questions. A question box or a office hour to address concerns privately would be helpful also. Sorry, I went off on a tangent. Okay there are the usual concerns of leaving the family and money issues. The other piece is the same as for other students...missing friends and events on campus. But, what is different for these students is they have a smaller group of friends and they tend to be a tighter knit group since they are so few in number. Another issue may be proving that it will be beneficial to their education, particularly to parents and relatives who might think that they are not taken the chance at university seriously, after the sacrifice that has been made for them (especially if they are the first to attend university).
  • mentor picture Yating Haller
     
    Yating Haller
    Assistant Director
    Global Engineering Program, Purdue University
    Faculty and administrators should be sensitive to the fact that not all students have the same...
    Faculty and administrators should be sensitive to the fact that not all students have the same playing fields. Students with diverse backgrounds often have different levels of access to cultural and social capital than a typical student, and it often takes more one-on-one interaction to get to know them. Faculty members should also keep in mind that discrimination and prejudice still exist and are very real even in today's society. They should address these issues up front and make sure that students know that they can discuss such issues with the faculty members if needed.
  • mentor picture Priscilla
     
    Priscilla
    Graduate Student
    University of California at Berkeley
    One of my major concerns as a person of color was to travel somewhere, where I could be sure that...
    One of my major concerns as a person of color was to travel somewhere, where I could be sure that there was not too much racial tension and if I was to run into any problems, there would be someone available for support. I have had a few encounters with racism and I believe it is important for students to be aware of any problems with discrimination so that they can prepare themselves and consider the best way of dealing with it. Of course you should be careful not to frighten students. After all, whether in the U.S. or abroad one may always run into racism, sexism and other kinds of discrimination. But a student should be knowledgeable of where they are going, including the political situation of the area, before they decide where they would like to study abroad.
  • mentor picture Emily Le
     
    Emily Le
    Doctoral Student, previously International Programs Counselor
    UCLA
    Some issues to keep in mind are the student's motivation to study abroad, their cultural...
    Some issues to keep in mind are the student's motivation to study abroad, their cultural background and varying attitudes towards traveling and studying abroad among different cultures.
  • mentor picture Inés Romana
     
    Inés Romana
    Senior Policy Coordinator
    University of California - Education Abroad Program, Universitywide Office
    - Ask yourself if you have stereotypes. - If the student is feeling overwhelmed, do not...
    - Ask yourself if you have stereotypes. - If the student is feeling overwhelmed, do not automatically assume that the difficulty is due to upbringing, low income, or a different culture or environment. - Keep in mind that students may not tend to explore non-traditional programs. If you see the potential in a student inform the student about opportunities in non-traditional programs. - Remember that culturally based difficulties might manifest themselves as linguistic issues for students. - Keep in mind that the student's expectation may be different than those of students from a majority population.
 
 
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