Exploring U-M’s Opportunities Around the World

 

Heritage Seekers Abroad

    1. "Growing up as an Asian American, I have always struggled with connecting with my cultural identity. However, this trip offered me the chance to explore that side of my identity. At first, I was too embarrassed to admit how little Chinese literacy I had, but I eventually decided to embrace the short amount of time I had in China to improve and learn from others. It was humbling and enlightening to see how different doors opened when I accepted my own weaknesses and became willing to grow from them. "

    2. "While abroad I also discovered more of my interests and decided to minor in digital studies! Deciding a minor has been racking my brain over the last year and I am so happy to have finally settled on something I am truly interested in. While I was abroad I was also able to visit Scotland, where so much of my family history is rooted. I flew up for the weekend, met my family, and stayed in the same home my great-gran, gran and mother stayed in. I loved every second of this experience and I am eternally grateful I was able to learn all about my family history first hand. I will forever remember this trip, my growth, and all my amazing experiences I had."

    3. "I am Korean-American, born in America. I had always struggled with both sides of my identity, being that I was born in NY but also Korean. I felt too Asian for America, but not Korean enough for Korea. I did not know how to combine both sides into one cohesive identity. Slowly as I grew older, I realized that I ignored a lot of my Korean heritage because I felt embarrassed by it. When I was an up-and-coming senior in high school, I started to become a fan of a K-pop (Korean pop) group BTS. As I listened to their music, I started to have pride for my ethnicity: its language, its people, its food, its culture. I saw what I had been missing out on and how I had been hiding parts of my identity. So, I decided to take Korean as a language in college. My communication skills were pretty good, but my vocabulary and writing were subpar at best. Then I decided to study abroad in Korea and it was the best decision of my life. I felt so welcomed and honored to visit and study in my homeland. I was able to see my family and meet many new friends in the university itself. Many Seoul National University students were in awe of the fact that I was bilingual and embraced both parts of my identity into one. I did not feel out of place but I felt accepted and celebrated."

    4. "Throughout my life, I sometimes felt like I was on this bridge trying to decide where I belong — Vietnam or the United States. Nonetheless, coming from a Vietnamese background, there was always an underlying connection that I wanted to continue building on. Traveling to Vietnam by myself was exciting, but also daunting. I did not have my parents to guide me and show me everything, but I was not completely lost either because I was culturally prepared especially with the food and language. I knew the basics and was able to get around and communicate with the local residents. However, I still felt a little social pressure. Despite this pressure, I genuinely enjoyed my experience. It was an enlightening time when I not only advanced academically, but also grew on a personal level. I got to deepen my understanding of the culture and different societal issues that I didn't necessarily know prior. After the trip, I felt even more connected to Vietnam. Now, instead of trying to choose one ‘home,’ I have two places to call ‘my home.’ There were times in my life when I tried to choose one identity, but why not take the best assets of both cultures and just be ME — a proud Vietnamese-American."

    5. "The last time I went to Vietnam was when I was two years old. Two. As far as I can tell, I didn’t exist before the age of five or so, since that’s how old I am in my earliest memory. I still can’t believe that after 17 years, I’m journeying back to Vietnam. This trip is more than a study abroad trip. Now that I get the opportunity to be fully immersed in Vietnamese food, people, and culture, I hope to develop my Vietnamese identity. Although I value being American, this is the time for me to push that aside and focus on my other half. Not only that, on a more personal level, this is a trip for me to meet the side of the family I’ve never known and live the culture my mother left behind. There’s a whole other world outside the US, and I can’t wait to experience it! See you soon, Vietnam."

    Download the Heritage Seekers Abroad flyer for additional questions and considerations for traveling abroad. Bring this resource with you when meeting with an academic advisor, education abroad advisor, or other U-M office.

    Heritage seeking is a fast-growing concept in the world of international education. With so many identities that we carry, it’s important to acknowledge the strengths that come with each one. As a heritage seeker, your international experience has an opportunity to be more unique than you originally thought. Because you’ll be traveling to a culture that you feel connected to, you’ll be able to share insight as well as gain a new perspective on a country/countries that you’ve only spoken or thought about. You may even have some experience traveling to your home country, but perhaps this is your first time independently traveling. Whatever the reason, your connections to a particular country can prove to be a rewarding experience. Use this page to explore considerations, opportunities, and challenges related to traveling abroad as a heritage seeker, but make sure you continue to research prior to your departure. .

    Did You Know?

    • Perceptions of your racial or ethnic identity can vary across contexts, which may lead to assumptions about your heritage, nationality, language ability, and more. Consider how you will feel if:
      • You are traveling from one country to another while abroad and suddenly shift from being in the minority to majority, or vice versa.
      • Someone in your host country assumes you can speak or write a language based on your visible race or ethnic identity.
      • You are treated differently because you are attending a higher education institution in the United States.
    • Note that even if you do your research ahead of time, traveling to a new place will likely be unfamiliar to you. You may also be unfamiliar to people in your host country and therefore encounter stereotypes, curiosity, or unexpected questions about race and ethnicity. Take a proactive approach by:
      • Brainstorming how you will react if you are asked uncomfortable questions or treated in a way you aren’t used to. If you are traveling in a group, rely on group members for support, or a trusted local contact to debrief with.
      • Taking time for yourself. Practicing self-care is essential while abroad, so do what you need to do to de-stress in a safe and healthy way.
      • Talking to an advisor or student who has traveled to your host country before. You are likely not the first person to encounter this experience, so use your networks for support as much as possible.

    Time to Reflect:

    As you consider and prepare for an international experience, use the following questions as a guide. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may relate to multiple identities. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college.

    • How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
      • Because you’re not in the United States, you may want to be mindful when it comes to reacting to locals. You should be intentional, and remain non-judgemental, curious, and open to communication in order to learn more. Remember, you are there to learn and observe and sometimes that means learning about customs that differ from your own way of life. On the other hand, staying true to yourself and your values is crucial. Your main concern should be your safety, so if you feel safe in your environment, you may choose to keep the communication open by asking questions to learn more or perhaps encouraging a discussion to determine whether their intentions are good or bad. In some cases, locals from various countries tend to be more vocal and direct as a way of trying to understand why visitors are different from them.
    • How will I be perceived in my home country?
      • No matter where you travel, you should keep in mind that culture is not a uniform concept. Every culture varies and each one comes with its own set of cultural norms that can be very different to what you are familiar with in the United States. Depending on your expectations, you may or may not feel accepted or connected to your host country. In reality, you aren’t there to manage/change other people’s behavior toward you but you can be in control of how you respond to their behavior, which could cause people from your host country to think either negatively or positively toward you.
    • Will there be other heritage students in my program?
      • No matter where you travel, you should keep in mind that culture is not a uniform concept. Every culture varies and each one comes with its own set of cultural norms that can be very different to what you are familiar with in the United States. Depending on your expectations, you may or may not feel accepted or connected to your host country. In reality, you aren’t there to manage/change other people’s behavior toward you but you can be in control of how you respond to their behavior, which could cause people from your host country to think either negatively or positively toward you.

    Go Engage!

    Take a deeper dive into issues of race and ethnicity in international travel by exploring the following resources:

     

     

    • 60+
      Languages

      More than 60 languages are offered at U-M

    • 17
      Programs

      U-M’s International Institute houses 17 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes