Heritage seekers are students who look to study abroad in a country with which they or their family share cultural and/or ethnic roots.

Heritage seekers are often motivated to choose such a location in order to learn more about their own cultural identity. As a result, the experience of studying abroad as a heritage seeker can be especially emotional, as there often are strong personal factors tied to the experience.

Learning about your host country (or, in some cases, your home country) ahead of time can help to prepare you for your time abroad.

Things to Consider Before Going Abroad

Adapted from Diversity Abroad’s “Diversity & Inclusion Abroad Guide: Tips for Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad

  • How will I be perceived in my host/home country? Will I be considered one of the locals? Or will I be seen as a foreigner?
  • Do I speak the language of my host/home country? How will that affect my experience?
  • Are the customs and culture of my host/home country the same as the ones I was raised with in the U.S.? Or do they differ?
  • Will there be other heritage seekers in my program?

Things to Consider While Abroad

Adapted from Diversity Abroad’s “Diversity & Inclusion Abroad Guide: Tips for Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad

  • Am I used to being part of the minority at home? What is like to be a part of the majority now that I’m abroad?
  • How should I react if a local person expects more of me (e.g., culturally, behaviorally, linguistically, etc.) than other students who don’t share the same cultural or ethnic heritage?
  • How should I react if I find something to be offensive? How should I react if someone generalizes or incorrectly identifies my ethnicity?
  • How should I react if other students in the program look to me to be an “expert,” even if I’m not?
  • How can I reconcile the differences between the customs and culture that I am experiencing in my host/home country with the ones that I was raised with?

Suggested Resources



  • Northwestern University: Heritage Seekers, which offers links to student stories organized by region.

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