Today, Native American students have many reasons to study around the globe, but unfortunately no place is perfectly free of ignorance, racism or discrimination. Just like at home in the U.S., you may find various levels of acceptance by some people and discrimination by others while abroad. Native American students should be aware that these problems do exist in various degrees in other countries, but this should not prevent you from traveling. There may actually be opportunities for you to be a positive influence on those you meet. You should feel free to travel to your places of interest (unless there is a civil unrest that may affect your safety. Please research your destination thoroughly before you travel. You can start with the U.S. Department of State’s travel warnings at http://www.state.gov/travel/). Many students have entirely positive experiences when exploring other places and other cultures.

One challenge that Native American students face in studying abroad is the curiosity factor. You may find you are often the subject of prolonged stares in other countries. In American society, this kind of behavior would be seen as inappropriate and rude, but remember that others may only be exposed to Native American culture through limited entertainment media. In Europe, for example, the “American Indian life style” was popularized by adventure novels written by Karl May in the 18th and 19th century. People may be very eager to talk to you about your life based on the assumptions that they have made. Be patient.

Living in another country can also be a liberating experience. Many people who do not see you as a stereotypical American might not treat you differently, allowing you to blend in more easily. In any case, studying abroad can certainly give you rare and unique opportunities to examine discrimination (or lack thereof) in different contexts. This may be a great opportunity for you to be both a student and teacher of cultural understanding our diverse world.