Loyola University Chicago

Study Abroad

Heritage Seekers

For many students, study abroad provides the opportunity to connect with their ancestral history and culture in an up close and personal way. The Institute of International Education calls these students “heritage seekers” as a way of understanding students’ desire to study abroad "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar." Students might meet up with relatives, learn the language of their ancestors, or simply learn more about the cultural aspects of the country.

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.

Questions:

  • 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?

Tips:

  • 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.

*Source: Diversity Abroad

Your LUC Study Abroad Advisor: Can help you find more information about the country you plan to go to and connect you with LUC peers who have studied in that country before. Additionally, program evaluations available in the office are a good way to learn what former students have to say about your host country and what you may encounter abroad.

Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs: Facilitates intentional reflection of the intersections of identities and critical social analysis of systems of privilege and oppression, SDMA seeks to enhance the experience of all members of the Loyola community by cultivating culturally competent agents of social change.

Seeking Your Roots: An article outlining a few students’ experiences as heritage seekers.

The New Norway: A video made by a heritage seeker who studied abroad in Norway.

Reunion: A video created by an American woman who traveled to Korea to meet her birth parents.

Go Overseas: This website provides information about various study abroad programs and student experiences, including an article called “Neither Here Nor There: The Reality of Heritage Study Abroad.”

“How Studying Abroad In Ghana Changed My Racial Consciousness”: An African American student recounts his experience studying abroad in Ghana.

“11 Inspiring Travel Books to Read Before Spending a Semester Abroad”: The reading list includes Maya Angelou's All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, which details her time in Ghana and what it means to be African American.

Diversity Abroad: An organization that provides resources on diversity abroad.

IES Abroad Diversity: Diversity resources for IES programs including past student perspectives, scholarship opportunities, a student guide, country-specific resources and contact information for the IES Diversity Coordinator. Heritage seekers can also check out posts by blogger Crystal, a Chinese American who study abroad in China.

NAFSA Diversity Resource Page: NAFSA: Association of International Educators advances public policies promoting international education and endorses critical, public discourse on the valuation and import of international education. This particular page features resources, organized by category, that address diversity and underrepresentation in education abroad. Students can also explore these reflections from Asian American students on their study abroad experiences in Asia.

ALLABROAD.us: This site offers resources addressing funding opportunities, study abroad and career development, reasons to study abroad, and information on diversity and discrimination abroad.