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Student Identities Abroad

Heritage Seekers

Heritage seekers are sometimes described as students who choose to study abroad in a particular region, country, and/or culture "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar" (IIE). For many students, this can be an opportunity to connect with their family and personal history and culture. For others,this can offer insights into their home culture, ancestry, and/or language.

Studying abroad as a heritage seeker can be a complex journey for students with both expected and unexpected emotions and experiences. Students may feel connected to the culture and community of the country or region in which they are studying abroad. While these connections can give them a new sense of belonging, heritage seekers may also find that these connections are nuanced and they may experience moments of cultural distinction or lack of belonging. Heritage seekers should be prepared for the possibility of being accepted by the local community because of shared heritage, language, or cultural ties, but also being viewed as an outsider because of cultural differences and national identity. Through these complex experiences, heritage seekers often share that studying aborad has given them a newfound sense of belonging and a more in-depth understanding of their own identities. 

We are here to help and offer the questions and resources below as a starting point.  As always, your Education Abroad advisor is available to assist you with your questions and navigate these resources.


  • How will I be perceived in my host country?
  • Will I be accepted in my host 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 seekers on my program?


  • Remember although there is an ethnical and/or cultural connection between you and the people in your host community, there are many cultural differences and you might not be accepted as one of their own.
  • Dressing and acting like the locals can make you stand out less.
  • Research the customs and culture of your host country. There might be great differences between what you think you know about the host country based on how you were raised and what it is actually like.
  • Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your race/ethnicity. 
  • 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.

Heritage Seekers in Africa:

Heritage Seekers in Asia:

Heritage Seekers in Latin America:

Heritage Seekers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):