Race and Ethnicity Off-Campus
While you are abroad you may be identified as part of a particular race or ethnicity, or simply as an American student. The people you meet will likely have an opinion about the U.S. and may be eager to tell you what they think, positive or negative. Attitudes toward other races and ethnicities may also vary widely depending on where you are studying.
The people you encounter may make certain assumptions about you based on your physical appearance, the fact that you are speaking English or that you are speaking the local language with an accent. Some may be interested to learn more about your culture or ethnicity, but there may be others whose behavior toward you might make you uncomfortable. They may stare at you, try to touch your hair or your skin, or ask invasive questions about your cultural heritage, physical features, or national origins. Children in particular may approach you as something of a novelty if you are studying abroad in location where people have had little or no contact with people of varied races or ethnicities.
In these situations, it is best to try to assume positive intent. While the person may have said or done something that is offensive to you, they may not have intended to do so and may simply be curious to know more. Political correctness is far less common in some countries than it is in the U.S. Nevertheless, if an encounter makes you uncomfortable, it is best to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Your first priority should be your own safety.