IIE Networker - Fall 2005 - (Page 16)

Special Feature Study Abroad for Students of Color The following three articles all revolve around breaking barriers to study abroad for students of color and other minority students, and what can be done to increase diversity in study abroad. Study Abroad for Students of Color Breaking the Barriers to Overseas Study for Students of Color and Minorities By Marilyn J. Jackson Why don’t students of color and minority students study abroad? Certainly there are very practical reasons, including lack of finances and fear of not graduating on time. Donald Washington in his 1998 dissertation on African American student’s perceptions and attitudes toward study abroad found that lack of awareness was the greatest contributor to the lack of African American participation in study abroad programs (Washington 1998, p. 125). I propose that two of the main reasons for this lack of awareness are historical exclusion from and media images of study abroad programs. Regarding historical exclusion, due to numerous economic and sociopolitical reasons, minority families do not have a history of sending young people abroad for the purposes of education. In contrast, among many upper-middle-class, predominately white families there is a long-established tradition of sending young people, especially women, to Europe for “finishing.” Back in the 1800s, in some circles the travel abroad experience was preferable to college for marriage preparation (Solomon 1985). Traveling abroad for privileged women is considered a rite of passage and a long-established tradition in many families. Even in this day and age it is relatively unlikely that a minority student will have had a family member or peer who has studied abroad. Even the people who traditionally mentor minority students may not have studied abroad and don’t see the value in it (Monaghan 1994). So for an average minority student there is very little “word of mouth” information about the program from the sources close to them. Media has a huge influence on all of us and can influence what we wear, which politician we support and which cola we drink. There are plenty of media images out there that depict study abroad or travel abroad experiences. There is practically a whole genre of light-hearted “fish out of water” movies that have entertained generations of young people: from Sabrina (1954) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) through the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies (they go to Paris, London, Australia), the new Lizzie McGuire (2003) movie and the more infamous Eurotrip (2004). Movies that depict minority students and students of color in similar situations are almost impossible to find. So in addition to having few real-life role models who have studied abroad, students of color don’t have many virtual role models either. The combination of these factors leads to what I like to call the “not-for-people-like-me” syndrome. People don’t think that study abroad is right for them and then filter out or ignore information about study abroad. Changing people’s minds about study abroad is not easy, but there are a few things that study abroad advisors can do to try to raise the awareness of study abroad among students of color and minorities. Many of them do not take a lot of time and money. Create a welcoming atmosphere for all students. If your office is a shrine to the European location where you studied abroad, change the decorations to reflect a plethora of cultures. If possible, consider diversifying your staff and your student assistant or volunteer pool. Create visuals. A photo board of all students who have studied abroad displayed prominently in the library or student center is a start; hopefully in time people will see “people like me” in the pictures.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Fall 2005

IIE Networker - Fall 2005
Message from Allan E. Goodman
Up Front: The International Education Diary
Study Abroad for Students of Color
Programmatic Diversity Versus Unplanned Information Flows
Nurturing Leadership and Social Change: The Mission of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program
Study Abroad
Study Abroad
Science and Engineering
Students with Disability
The Browser: Index of Advertisers

IIE Networker - Fall 2005