Studying abroad to your family’s ancestral country is a common reason for students to study abroad. Learning more about the culture, traditions, and information about your heritage can provide new insight on your family culture and may even give you a chance to learn more about the language of your ancestors.
Heritage seekers should be prepared for the “familiar” and yet “unfamiliar” feeling upon interacting with the host country, as well as significant impacts on their cultural, ethnic, or religious identities. Students are encouraged to enter their host country with an open-mind, to share their home-country culture, and connect with relatives and locals.
While heritage seeking is an exciting journey, it can also be quite an emotional one. Consider the following questions and tips* when planning your study abroad experience.
- How will I be perceived in my home country?
- Will I be accepted in my home country?
- How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
- Am I used to being part of the minority at home? How will it be to be a part of the majority abroad?
- Will there be other heritage students in my program?
- Remember although there is an ethnic affiliation between you and the people in your home country, there are many cultural differences and you might not be accepted as one of their own.
- Research the customs and culture of your home country. There might be great differences between what you think you know about the home country based on how you were raised and what it is actually like. To this end, have an open mind about your home country in an effort to avoid unrealistic expectations.
- Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity. Additionally, you may be identified as American and an outsider rather than a part of the host country.
- Learn more about other heritage students’ experiences abroad. For example, you can talk to other heritage students who have studied abroad or find information online.
How Education Abroad Office (EAO) can help:
- Ask your Education Abroad Advisor to connect you with an alumni of the program who was also a heritage seeker.
Adapted from Loyola University Chicago & University of Wisconsin-Madison