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Race and Ethnicity

Duke Immerse believes that its programs should be accessible to everyone, and is committed to nurturing a richly diverse student cohort and community where all members feel empowered, heard, respected and supported.  

Some of the rewards and challenges of studying abroad may be directly related to your racial and/or ethnic identity. Your race, ethnicity, and/or nationality will be interpreted differently depending on your location, and you may bring perspectives that might not have been previously considered. Your experience will differ based on your own race/ethnicity, how that intersects with other identities you may hold, and how these relate to your host country’s history and demographics. You may become part of a racial or ethnic majority/minority for the first time in your life.  All of these factors will impact how you experience your own race and ethnicity while studying away, and each situation comes with a unique set of challenges, which can be daunting to face without your usual support network in place. Know that you are not alone on your study away program even if you feel isolated while on your program due to your race, ethnicity, or nationality. You have the support of Duke and Immerse. 

Immerse alumni report having varying experiences related to race and ethnicity on their programs. Some students who study internationally felt exhilarated to be outside of the context of U.S. race relations for the first time. Others experienced different degrees of curiosity about their ethnicity from the host culture. There were also those who felt they met both familiar and new types of ostracism and prejudice during their programs, and thus had to learn new coping strategies. 

White students should be cognizant about how white privilege shapes their experience abroad. Given the complexity of colonial history, students should be particularly mindful of ‘white savior’ complex and acknowledge the role white privilege may play in the local context. White students should also consider ways in which they can use their privilege to be an ally and advocate on behalf of those who do not have the same privilege. See the resources section below for more information on white allyship in the context of travel and study away. 

It is important to educate yourself about conditions in your host community, and to prepare yourself accordingly. We recommend talking with others who have been on the same program and who may be able to offer advice. 

Submit a Concern

If you experience discrimination/bias while on a Duke Immerse program, this is not something that you have to bear alone. Please consider the following action steps: 

      • Contact your on-site program faculty/support staff 
      • Report via Duke Office of Institutional Equity (anonymous option available) 
      • Submit your concern to Duke Immerse staff (not anonymous) 

Know that you are not alone on the travel portion of your Immerse program. If you find yourself feeling isolated due to your sexuality or gender expression, know that you have the support of Duke ImmerseDukeReach, CAPS, and Blue Devils United. 

Possible Situations

Below are some situations that Immerse alumni have reported experiencing on their programs. This list isn’t exhaustive, and your experience may be different, but hopefully these examples will help you think through certain scenarios before you leave. Please contact if you have any specific questions or concerns. 

            • If you are studying in a very homogeneous society where you look different from the local population, you may experience extreme curiosity, fetishization, and/or objectification. For example, people could stare at you or may ask to touch your hair. 
            • Locals’ views of you may stem primarily from how your race/ethnicity is portrayed in American pop culture. 
            • If you are from the U.S., you may be viewed as “American” first, rather than as your racial/ethnic identity. In this situation, you may experience a position of privilege relative to locals of the same racial/ethnic background (e.g. Black Americans in South Africa or Brazil). 
            • Alternatively, depending on location, you may not fit what the host country stereotype of what an “American” looks like, so you may have the frustrating job of convincing locals that you are from the United States. 
            • Many countries lack or have a different interpretation of what in the U.S. is considered “political correctness.” Locals may use vocabulary to identify you that is considered offensive in the U.S., or give you nicknames based on your appearance and/or ethnic/racial background. 
            • You may experience language discrimination. This tends to happen if you’re studying abroad in a country/region where your family is from, but you don’t speak the language (e.g. Hispanic student studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country) 
            • You could experience discrimination, bias, micro-aggressions, etc. within your study abroad cohort. Please see above for action steps to take if this occurs. 
            • Your experience may differ based on other identities you hold in addition to your race/ethnicity, such as your gender identity, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. 
            • You may find yourself engaged in challenging conversations with people who hold differing viewpoints/life experiences in the classroom, with your host family, with local friends, or amongst your cohort. 


          • Research how your race/ethnicity is perceived in your host location, including the historical context of immigration, race relations, etc. Learn how you may be treated or viewed in your host location. 
          • Reflect on your own identity. What are the ethnic, racial, religious, and gender identities that characterize you? 
          • Create a local support network to discuss your experiences. Also, think about whom you might talk to back home to help process your experiences. 
          • Keep an open mind and learn to distinguish between curiosity stemming from ignorance and outright racism or discrimination. 
          • If someone you know (local friend, host family member, professor, etc.) calls you by a name you are uncomfortable with, politely ask them to stop. If the behavior continues, notify your faculty leaders. 
          • Review the resources below, and if you need help researching a particular topic, or if you have concerns, email 

Student Resources, Experiences, and Perspectives 

General Resources 

 African-American, African, Black and Caribbean Students 

Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander Students 

Latinx Students 

Middle Eastern Students 

Native American and Indigenous Students 

White Allyship 

Some resources compiled from: