Indigenous student success abroad
NAU supports student diversity
Northern Arizona University occupies, and is surrounded by, the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, Havasupai, Hualapai, Pueblos, Western Apache, Yavapai, Zuni, and several other tribal nations.
Did you know that less than 1% of students who study abroad are Indigenous (Native American or Alaska Native) in the U.S. (Institute of International Education, 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 Indigenous students study abroad?
- Gain a new perspective on your own country, culture, and identity.
- Increase your employability with the gained international experience, cross-cultural skills and cultural adaptability.
- Learn about other Indigenous issues and cultures, as well as and impacts of colonialism around the world.
- Bring new comparative perspectives to Indigenous issues back home.
- Educating the international community about modern Indigenous peoples’ culture and values.
- Help build your own nation through sharing the skills, experiences, and connections gained abroad.
Exploring the world as an Indigenous student
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 of Native Americans 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 tribal nation or demonstrate your Indigenous values in different situations, providing an opportunity to share your tribal culture abroad with others who may have never met a Native American before or know how diverse tribal nations are across the U.S. You and your family may wish to hold a protective ceremony before you go abroad, or there may be some parts of a study abroad program that you cannot participate in due to spiritual, dietary, or other personal considerations. It’s important to communicate these needs with your Education Abroad advisor, so we can work with our partners abroad to ensure they are prepared with accommodations and you can have a positive experience.
You also may have other personal identities, such as multi-racial, 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!
Past Indigenous students who have studied abroad have been able to apply external scholarships from their tribe or other organizations with additional paperwork/permissions granted from the tribe towards their study abroad program. This 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 Fund for Education Abroad, the Gilman Scholarship, the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, and Mobility Abroad Scholarship. As the least represented ethnic group, Indigenous students are encouraged to attend our scholarship workshop and apply.
Program options Accordion Closed
For some Indigenous students, attending a mainstream university like NAU is already challenging, and it can be intimidating to imagine going abroad to a completely new culture. However, you have already demonstrated your skill in cultural adaptability by becoming a Lumberjack and joining us here at NAU.
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 our special topic courses.
As you participate more in the host culture lifestyle, you will stand out less but your physical appearance may still attract attention. You may be classified by others incorrectly. It may be the case that you also 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?
- 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 with 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?
Indigenous-focused programs Accordion Closed
- Academia Latinoamerica – Internship with Indigenous Peoples
- Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia (fall/spring exchange)
- Curtin University, Perth, Australia (fall/spring exchange)
- Montana State University (fall/spring National Student Exchange)
- Murdoch University, Perth, Australia (fall/spring exchange)
- NAU in Australia and New Zealand: Indigenous Heritage and Education in Aboriginal Australia – Summer 2021
- NAU in New Zealand: Sustainable Communities & Environmental Studies – Summer 2021
- NAU in Tanzania: Health, Culture, and Community Development
- Navajo Language Summer Immersion Camp – Summer 2021
- Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Colombia, Canada (fall/spring exchange)
- Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador (fall/spring exchange)
- University of Alaska Southeast (fall/spring National Student Exchange)
- University of Hawai’i Hilo (fall/spring National Student Exchange)
- University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia (fall/spring exchange)
References and resources Accordion Closed
Institute of International Education. (2019). “Profile of U.S. Study Abroad Students, 2000/-1-2017/18.” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from http://www.opendoorsdata.org
Want to discuss studying abroad as an Indigenous student with an Education Abroad Advisor? You can make an appointment by your regional interest or join a general information session.
Be sure to connect with the NAU Office of Indigenous Student Success and Native American Cultural Center for resources and support for Indigenous students.