Racialized Students

The following information has been adapted from Toronto Metropolitan University

The U of A strives to ensure that all students experience equal opportunity in their academic career; however, in situations of global travel, the safety and opportunity to thrive may vary based on local laws and cultural attitudes.

Learning and/or working abroad can present you with exciting possibilities to explore other cultures and understandings of identity. To have a safe and rewarding experience when participating in global learning activities abroad, it’s important to think about how your identities may impact on your experiences abroad. This will help you make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs that best meet your needs.

As a racialized student, you may have specific questions and concerns about participating in global learning activities abroad. When going abroad, it is important to learn about how people of your racial/ethnic identity are perceived and treated in your host destination. As you prepare for your global learning activity, our office is here to help you through the process and answer any questions you may have.

Below you will find resources to help you research your destination country and learn more about the experiences of racialized students abroad.

Questions to Ask Yourself
  • What is my experience of racism and discrimination in Canada and how have I responded? What are my skills and resources that were helpful in these situations?
  • What is the relationship between my destination country, my home country and/or my place of racial/ethnic origin?
  • What types of experiences do racialized students typically have on the programs (or in the country) I am considering?
  • If staying with a host family, have they accommodated students of my race/ethnicity before? If not, will this be an issue for me or them?
  • How is my race/ethnicity perceived in my destination country? What kinds of stereotypes exist about my race/ethnicity? How are people of my race/ethnicity typically treated in my destination country?
  • What are my resources if I experience racial or discriminatory incidents?
  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in the country/region? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a particular race or ethnicity?
Things to Consider
  • Social support in your destination country and at home can help you navigate a new culture that will likely include new racial/ethnic relations. Know whom to contact when you feel like your race or ethnic background are discriminated against while abroad.
  • In Canada, your race/ethnicity may be a defining factor of your identity. However, while abroad you might be perceived as Canadian first.
    In contrast, assumptions about the social groups associated with your nationality may cause others abroad to question your origins. They might ask you questions about your nationality and cultural heritage, even after you've already stated it.
  • Similar to Canada, as a racialized person you might be asked where you are “really” from after you already stated you’re Canadian. Recognize that these questions are most likely a result of a lack of awareness about the social demographics of your country, rather than prejudice.
  • When visiting racially/ethnically homogeneous areas, you may encounter curious locals who have never seen people who look like you. They might stare at you excessively, take photos of you, or even try to touch you/your hair. If it makes you uncomfortable, politely express your discomfort and they will most likely respect your boundaries.
  • Do your research about any race-specific products that you use to see if they are available in the destination region (eg. hair and beauty products). Plan to bring with you if needed.
  • Having a support system of family and friends may also help you deal with feelings of isolation and culture shock.
  • Knowing the social and historical situation in your destination country can help you prepare for the transition from Canada and back. This helps you be prepared if any incidents arise. However, don’t expect prejudice to happen either.
  • You may find it empowering to facilitate conversations about race and ethnicity in your destination country. However, you are participating in a global learning activity to make the most of your adventure—don’t feel pressured to explain your identity to everyone all the time. Choose opportunities that suit you and that you have identified as safe and inclusive to have this conversation. It isn’t your job to educate everyone in your destination country on your identity—you’re abroad for your own personal growth and education.
  • Conversations like those noted above may take place with other students on your global learning abroad program. Some students find it more difficult to work through issues with fellow students on the program than they do with individuals from the destination country. Be prepared for these situations as well. If you ever feel unsafe or feel that the discrimination is overwhelming, contact your global learning program coordinators for assistance.
  • Finally, note that discrimination can also lead to violence. At all times, make safety your goal. You will often be the first person to know if a situation is becoming unsafe. Trust your instincts, and do not do anything or go anywhere if you’re not comfortable in doing so.

If you know of additional resources that assisted you in your preparation to go abroad or would like to share your personal story of learning abroad, please contact goabroad@ualberta.ca.

  • Race Abroad Guide - Includes U.S. student’s experiences and survey results when they studied abroad

Education Abroad Panel Discussion

This video series focuses on the experiences of racialized students abroad, specifically Black, African, Caribbean and Afro-Indigenous students. For this series, the Global Learning Centre invited four Education Abroad program participants to take part in a panel exploring how being Black informed their respective experiences abroad.

View the series playlist

Take the next step: talk with an Education Abroad Advisor

U of A International's Education Abroad advisors are ready to help you go abroad:

  • Get answers to your questions
  • Assistance with the application process
  • Advice on destination and program choice

Make an Appointment