Asian student success abroad
NAU supports student diversity
Though Asian and Pacific Islander students are studying abroad at increasing rates, many students do not feel that they are truly understood and recognized by their peers and institutions (IE Open Doors, Lu et al., 2019). NAU Education Abroad believes that all students deserve to study abroad and see their world, and we want to help you go abroad!
Why should Asian and Pacific Islander students go abroad?
- Gain a new perspective on your own culture, heritage, and identity
- Increase your employability with the gained international experience, cross-cultural skills and cultural adaptability
- Establish new relationships
- Learn about other Asian issues and cultures, as well as the impacts of ethnicity and race issues around the world
- Fight stereotypes by educating others about Asian and Pacific Islander peoples’ culture and values
- Bring new comparative perspectives to racial justice issues back home
- Help build your own community through sharing the skills, experiences, and connections grained abroad
- Explore and deepen your understanding of your family heritage
Exploring the world as an Asian student abroad
Race & ethnicity abroad Accordion Closed
While you may have grown up being classified by your race or ethnicity, when abroad you may be classified first by your country–as an American. Locals you meet will most likely have an opinion about the USA before they meet you and want to discuss U.S. culture, politics, and current events with you, both positive and negative!
Others may also make assumptions based on your physical appearance, resulting in staring at you or wanting to touch your hair or skin. They may openly ask you questions about your cultural heritage, where you’re from, or the way you look. They may have beliefs about Asian people from the U.S. based on movies, television, or history books that are inaccurate and stereotypical. Sometimes these curious questions may come across as insensitive. However, different cultural norms abroad may result in different styles of politeness.
If someone says or does something that is offensive to you, try to determine if this person is simply curious about you or has bad intentions. In uncomfortable situations, remember to always put your own safety first.
Intersecting identities Accordion Closed
You may identify with your Asian or Pacific Islander heritage or demonstrate those values in different situations, providing an opportunity to share your culture abroad with others. It is an exciting time but can also be overwhelming. You and your family may wish to discuss the concerns you have about going abroad and want to talk to someone together. It’s important to communicate these needs with your Education Abroad advisor, so we can work together to make sure you are prepared and have the support you need at home and at NAU in order to have a positive experience abroad.
You also may have other personal identities, such as multiracial, LGBTQIA+, a student with a disability, First-Gen, low-income, and/or non-traditional student. These intersecting identities make you unique! As a result, your experience abroad will also be uniquely yours. We are here to help you navigate your personal journey!
Money matters Accordion Closed
Finances for study abroad are a consideration for nearly all students regardless of race/ethnicity. NAU and other organizations offer special scholarships for study abroad, financial aid (grants, loans) can be applied to almost all programs, and merit-based NAU scholarships (Lumberjack, Blue, Gold, Transfer) can be applied to exchange programs.Some rules/restrictions apply based on the type of scholarship and program, and your Education Abroad advisor can help explain what scholarships are best for you to apply for. View our scholarships page for more details!
Applying for scholarships can add additional time to the application process, so if you are interested in this, tell your Education Abroad advisor early in the planning process. Additionally, many scholarships focus on diversity and sending underrepresented students abroad, such as the Education Abroad Network (TEAN) Need, Merit and Diversity Scholarship Program, ISA Diversity Scholarship, the Fund for Education Abroad, the Gilman Scholarship, the Boren Award, and Mobility Abroad Scholarship (if you also identify as Indigenous Native American/Hawaiian). There are specific scholarships wishing to study abroad in Asia. If you plan to study abroad in Asia check out the Freeman Asia, Bridging Japan, and Watanabe Scholarship. As an underrepresented ethnic group, we encourage you to attend our scholarship workshop and apply!
Program options Accordion Closed
Some students have responsibilities in their families or communities that prevent them from being away from home for an extended period of time. We offer hundreds of programs, including short-term programs lasting only a few weeks to accommodate different life situations. Other students who have more flexibility for a longer program can go abroad for a semester or academic-year for an immersive experience. You can focus on courses for your degree plan or explore our special topic courses.
As you participate more in the host culture in lifestyle, you will stand out less but your physical appearance may still attract attention. You may be classified by others incorrectly. It may also be the case that you don’t experience racism or discrimination as you expected when you go abroad. Be prepared but open-minded!
Pre-departure preparations Accordion Closed
To prepare, learn more about other diverse students’ experiences both at NAU and abroad through the Office of Inclusion and our network of study abroad alumni. Ask your Education Abroad advisor for more details!
Some questions to consider and research before you go abroad:
- How is my ethnicity/race perceived in my host country? What kind of stereotypes are there?
- As an Asian student, how will I be viewed if I study in an Asian country?
- What advice do you have for students who will be studying abroad in a country of their heritage?
- What kind of groups or organizations exist in my host city or program for my ethnic/racial group? What resources are available to me there?
- How should I react if I find something to be offensive? Is the person curious or do they have bad intentions?
- If staying in a host family, have they housed minority students before? If not, will this be an issue for them?
- Am I used to being part of the majority at home but will be a minority abroad? Or vice versa?
- Will there be other minority students in my program?
- Who should I contact if I do face racial or discriminatory incidents?
- Does my program have support staff that will understand and help me through any racial or discriminatory incident I may face?
- How can I use my presence abroad to represent U.S. diversity and share my culture and values in a positive way?
There are also ways to connect with other Asian and Pacific Islander travelers as well:
- Join social media groups and forums
- Chat with people “IRL”
- Remember to branch out
- Be open minded
- Read articles and travel blogs
- Host an event in your community
References and resources Accordion Closed
Asian in America, American in Asia
Being Chinese American in China
Heritage Travel: What it is & How it Can Benefit You
Office of Inclusion: Multicultural & LGBTQIA Student Services
On Belonging: Studying Abroad in Asia as an Asian American/Heritage Learner
Tips for Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad
Institute of International Education. (2019). Open Doors Fast Facts 2010-2019. Fast Facts 2010-2019.