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Heritage-seeking students abroad

Many students choose to study abroad to learn more about their family ancestry. The Institute of International Education calls these students “heritage seekers,” who choose an ancestral homeland to study abroad "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar." In this way, these heritage seeker students are those who choose their study abroad location based on cultural heritage, with the goal of enhancing their knowledge of cultural background. Going to your family’s homeland can often be an emotional experience, because the journey has deeply personal as well as social and academic implications. Whether or not you speak the native language of your study abroad location/ancestral homeland, you may feel like both an insider and and an outsider, and therefore you might feel let down if you had an expectation of feeling seamless belonging. Every student’s experience varies, and some will feel closer to their family homeland after the trip, while others may find themselves identifying more strongly with the United States in response to their journey. Reach out to heritage seeker returnee students to learn about their experiences, and consult resources like Diversity Abroad’s Heritage Seekers page to prepare for your trip. If you don’t know any heritage seekers who’ve studied abroad, reach out to the CGIS peer advisors or ask your CGIS program advisor to put you in touch with someone to talk about the region you’re interested in.

Additional Resources

Neither Here Nor There: The Reality of Heritage Study Abroad

Seeking Your Roots An article outlining a few students’ experiences as heritage seekers.