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Heritage Seekers

For many students, study abroad provides the opportunity to connect with their ancestral history and culture in an up-close and personal way. The Institute of International Education calls these students “heritage seekers” as a way of understanding students’ desire to study abroad "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar." Students might meet up with relatives, learn the language of their ancestors, or simply learn more about the cultural aspects of the country.

While heritage seeking is an exciting journey, it can also be quite an emotional one. Consider the following questions and tips when planning your study abroad experience.

Questions about heritage seeking

  • 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 students in my program?

Heritage seeking tips

  • Remember although there's an ethnic affiliation between you and the people in your host country, there are many cultural differences and you might not be accepted as one of their own.
  • 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. To this end, have an open mind about your host country in an effort to avoid unrealistic expectations.
  • Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity. Additionally, you may be identified as American and an outsider rather than a part of the host country.
  • 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.

What resources are available at Loyola?

Your Loyola Study Abroad Advisor can help you find more information about the country you plan to go to and connect you with other Loyola students who have studied in that country before. Additionally, program evaluations available in the office are a good way to learn what former students have to say about your host country and what you may encounter abroad.

Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs facilitates intentional reflection of the intersections of identities and critical social analysis of systems of privilege and oppression, seeking to enhance the experience of all members of the Loyola community by cultivating culturally competent agents of social change.

What are some additional resources I can utilize?

Beijing Bound: A Chinese American Studying in China is a blog by Crystal Mak, American born Chinese raised on a fusion of both Chinese and American traditions, foods, and languages.

11 Inspiring Travel Books to Read Before Spending a Semester Abroad includes Maya Angelou's All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, which details her time in Ghana and what it means to be African American.

How Studying Abroad In Ghana Changed My Racial Consciousness is an article in which Akintunde Ahmad recounts his experience studying abroad in Ghana.

Reunion is a video created by an American woman who traveled to Korea to meet her birth parents.

Seeking Your Roots is an article outlining heritage seekers' experiences published by the University of Texas students.  

The New Norway is a video made by Kari Pederson Behrends, a heritage seeker who studied abroad in Norway.

Want to find out more about possible funding opportunities? Check out our list of Scholarships for more resources on a variety of ways to help cut down the cost of study abroad.