As someone who works in international education, I get to see the many benefits that international exchange experiences provide for program participants on a daily basis. That is why I am particularly struck by the low numbers of minorities who choose to travel abroad.
The Institute of International Education reports that only 29.2% of participants of U.S. students who study abroad self-report as minorities—and only 6.1% identify as black Americans. The most commonly cited barriers to participation include financial challenges, lack of information, and biased impressions of what exchange participants should look like.
But as a black American with experience abroad and a career in international education, I strongly believe that you should go global, regardless of what you look like. Encountering new cultures, gaining cross-cultural skills, working in new environments, and forming lasting connections can all help us understand what it means to be part of our own country and culture.