Breaking Barriers to Study Abroad

To make education abroad more inclusive, institutions need to design international experiences that more closely align with underrepresented students’ identities and interests.
Students from ArtCenter College of Design on a faculty-led study abroad program in the Dominican Republic that focuses on identity and diversity. Photo: Courtesy Aaron Bruce
Charlotte West

Darayon Moore, a pre-med major at Kentucky Wesleyan College, knows there are fellow students on campus who want to study abroad but are discouraged by “so many different things, such as money or just the thought of not being able to go,” she says. “I know, because I was one of those students.”

Moore will be going to Tanzania this summer as one of the inaugural recipients of the NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship, which offers funding for African American students to study abroad. With her program’s focus on medicine and social work, Moore hopes the experience will make her a better doctor.

“As a doctor, you have to be able to relate to your patients, no matter where in the world they come from,” says Moore, who is a first-generation college student.

She will join the approximately 300,000 U.S. students who study abroad each year—about one in 10 undergraduates, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Yet, Moore’s story indicates a larger trend. Andrew Gordon, founder and CEO of Diversity Abroad, notes that there are often parallels between students who are underrepresented in education abroad and students who have historically been marginalized in higher education as a whole. These groups include students of color, first-generation students, low-income students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students. There is often significant overlap between the needs of these historically marginalized groups.

Participation Gaps

Nationwide data on study abroad rates remain scarce for most of these groups, partly because the data aren’t

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