6 Symptoms of Being a Minority Abroad

Emily Kawahigashi is a student at Seattle University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile.

Valparaiso, Chile1. No one believes that you’re actually from the United States.

This one is the classic, “but where are you really from?” No one asks questions when your study abroad friends say they’re from the States, but when it’s your turn to answer you know to expect some follow up questions.

2. People trying to speak your ethnic language.

Oh, if you had a dollar for every time someone tried to speak to you in an “exotic” language that they somehow relate to you! While these occurrences are not necessarily bad experiences, it is still a constant reminder that you stand out even within your group of foreigners.

3. You have to adjust to a completely different cuisine.

Horcon, Chile, KawahigashiAdjustments to new cuisines are probably the roughest transition to a new place, but even more so since you know that your traditional food probably doesn’t exist in your new host country. Your stomach and digestive system may take a bit of a beating, but you’ll figure out how to navigate your host country’s tastes.

4. Double culture shock.

Valdivia, ChileMinorities tend to stick with at least a few other minorities, especially in the diverse mess that is the United States. More often than not you will be one of the few, if not the only, minority in your group while abroad. Sure you may have a few friends who have waded into your minority experience, but be prepared for a potential identity crisis. As more and more people ask you to define yourself, some questions may begin forming in your mind about your own identity. First there’s the culture shock of experiencing a new country and culture, then there’s the culture shock from the lack of diversity in said new country.

5. People tend to think you represent your entire ethnicity.

You will be underrepresented and it is not uncommon for people to associate you with anything they believe to be related to your culture. This could mean that they expect you to be fluent in your ethnic language, or that you must know all the intricacies of your culture simply because you share the same ethnicity.

6. The excitement of meeting someone that might share your identity and experience.

Laguna Verde, ChileWhat?! Someone with the potential of the same minority abroad experience as you?!

The World Awaits…Discover it.