Reasons to Study Abroad
For Hispanic/ Latin@ American Students
Hispanic cultures have always had a major influence on shaping of the United States, especially with increased immigration from Latin@ America in recent decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2002, more than one in eight people in the United States were of Hispanic origin. The Census Bureau also predicts that by the year 2100, ethnic minority groups in the United States will make up 60 percent of our country's population, with the vast majority being Latin@.
Just as the face of America is rapidly changing, it is becoming increasingly important for students in the U.S. to travel and study in other countries. Gaddi Vasquez, the first Hispanic Director of the Peace Corps, described an experience he had in Morocco when a man told him he didn't look like an American because of "...the color of your skin. You don't look like an American." Vasquez said that encounter "gave me the opportunity to talk about how my grandparents had come to the United States from Mexico, and how we had become part of the great fabric that makes our nation strong." Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to showcase the great diversity that makes up the United States.
Additionally, the chance to live and study in another culture will provide you with the ultimate learning experience, as well as the perfect opportunity for you to get out and explore the world. With the realities of globalization today, the options Hispanic/ Latin@ students have for studying abroad are endless. Whether you decide on Paris or Paraguay, Berlin or Bangladesh, Guatemala or Ghana, there are countless reasons why you should participate in a study abroad program.
Getting in touch with your family's heritage can be another strong motivation to study abroad. Many Latin@ students report tremendous educational and personal benefits from exploring countries where their families have roots. Whether your family recently immigrated to the U.S. or has lived here for decades, and whether you are discovering your family's culture for the first time or interested in learning more, study abroad can provide you with an opportunity to get in touch with your heritage and explore your own identity.
There is a challenge that many Latin@ students face abroad. Many other cultures only have experience with Latin@s through the media (i.e. music, movies, television, etc.). Latin@ American students may become frustrated when the same stereotypes from home follow them overseas. However, this is also a unique opportunity to educate others about who you are as an individual and as a group. This is your chance to be an individual, as well as a representative of your culture, and to encourage positive understanding of global diversity.
A number of Hispanic/ Latin@ Americans were strongly shaped by their international experiences, including:
- Alberto R. Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General and the first Hispanic to hold such high office in the U.S. government.
- Dr. Antonia Novello, the first Latin-American and first woman to be appointed to the post of Surgeon General of the United States.
- Geraldo Rivera, journalist and veteran foreign correspondent.
- Gaddi H. Vasquez, first Hispanic Director of the Peace Corps.