Studying abroad is scary, exciting and suspenseful whoever you are. Thousands of UK students go abroad each year to study, teach, and work. For those from an ethnic minority background it’s extra tricky to get abroad – unfortunately, some countries aren’t as diverse or tolerant as the UK.
Around the world, people face discrimination because of the colour of their skin everyday, and it’s something some students have to bare in mind when choosing where to go on their year abroad. Thoughts before travelling away from home, friends and family are often chaotic, racism shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind – but unfortunately for some students, it is.
Blogger and Nottingham Trent Grad, Anita Barton-Williams, shared her advice on ThirdYearAbraod.com, after spending a year in France and Spain, and discovering she’d been placed in Front National territory.
I want to shed light on the experiences I have had as a young black woman abroad. I want to be able to give advice to other Black people and ethnic minorities on what to expect upon starting their year abroad as I, as well as several of my fellow Black Trent students, have encountered racism on several occasions and feel it is a topic that needs to be brought to attention.
Anita goes on to explain how she was stared at, called a slave and her afro was made fun of. She urges people to do their research before travelling, and to speak up when you become a victim of racism.
Another blogger from Nottingham Trent, Alexander Hylton-Holmes, who also spent his time in Strasbourg, said it was difficult to find accommodation because ‘Strasbourg was racist‘ and no landlord would let to him because he’s ‘black and english’.
Another year abroad student, Selena Falcone, a mixed race British student who decided to study at the University of Luxembourg, with a year abroad in Japan told the Guardian
I could have gone to Moscow, which would have been amazing, but my ethnicity made me doubt whether I’d get the same experience of Russia as my peers. Race relations in Hungary are also far from good, but I feel like the positives there outweigh my fear of feeling ostracised. I wasn’t really offered any specific advice as a BME [black and other ethnic minorities] and I feel like this also applies to other minority groups, such as LGBT students, who may also have to think about how the way they identify may give them a different year abroad experience to their peers.
Of course, for many ethnic minority students there are no problems with studying abroad, some with no problem at all. If you’re concerned about travelling abroad, or have issues while abroad contact SUSU’s Advice Centre.
Feature image by Joshua Samways.