Heritage seekers are students who are looking to study abroad to engage more with their ancestry and cultural heritage. This could be as recent as their parents or long down a line of generations to explore the birthplaces of their great ancestors. Studying abroad in the place of your heritage can be an experience with the potential for deep learning about your heritage and yourself.
“You should be prepared to be seen as an outsider, although often a welcome one, in the local community. While you can gain rewarding insight into your heritage and family, be modest in your expectations about fitting in or having an instinctive understanding of your host country. One of the best things heritage learners can do is forget everything that they know about their ancestor’s homeland and enter the country with an open mind.”
-Office of Global Education, Georgetown University
Become familiar with the customs, cultures, and traditions of your ancestor’s homeland. It is important to be aware that our preconceived notions about places may be challenged and to approach them with an open mind.
It may be the case that even though you share an ethnic affiliation with some people from your ancestor’s homeland, cultural differences can and will arise and you may not be seen as a native member of the culture.
Know that you may be misidentified or generalized by other people. This is an opportunity for shared learning!
Learn more about other heritage students’ experiences abroad.
Berkeley Study Abroad recommends that you begin your program search by utilizing our Explore tool. There are several programs that focus on the culture of the host country, and there may be many options that align with your identity. Any program can be classified as a heritage program if approached with the right intention. If you have identified a program that is not classified as a heritage program, please consider the reflection questions to help you prepare and get the most of your experience abroad.
How will I be accepted and perceived in my ancestor’s homeland?
How will I react if challenged with something offensive?
Will there be other heritage seekers on my program?
Am I used to being a part of an ethnic minority at home? How will I feel to be part of the majority while I am abroad?
What languages are spoken aside from the dominant language?
What is the predominant religion? Will you have access to your religious place of worship?
How can you learn about the history of your ancestor’s homeland? What role has the United States played in that history and how may that influence the way you are perceived as a student from the U.S.?
What important holidays are celebrated? When are they?
How are gender roles constructed?
How are family hierarchies structured and what are the appropriate ways to interact with elders?
Are there any cultural taboos you should be aware of?
What are some common foods eaten in your ancestor’s homeland?
How are typical daily schedules structured? When are meals eaten? When does work and rest take place?
What are the common greetings?
Are sales bargained or are marked prices fixed?
How will your financial status be viewed from a local’s perspective?
If you will be living with a host family, what will be expected of you in the home? Should you be expected to bring your host family gifts?
Berkeley Study Abroad offers peer advising with peers who are designated as EOP satellite advisers. Their names will have “EOP” marked next to them when you sign up for a peer advising appointment. Some of these students are EOP identifying, and all of them have additional knowledge on advising EOP identifying students. You can read more about EOP and EOP satellite advising on the EOP website.
All Berkeley Study Abroad peer advisers are equipped to answer your questions about getting started, picking a program, academic considerations, financial aid, and more. Feel free to read their bio’s on the sign up page and make an appointment with a peer who fits your scheduling and advising needs.
“I fell in love with the idea of going to Mexico City. I had not visited my parent's ancestor’s homeland in over 10 years and just thinking about having the opportunity to go back elevated my heart in the most beautiful way. I strongly desired to learn about my roots, to touch that warm soil that distinguishes México from the rest of the world, and to explore my identity in ways I had never done before.”
Andre: Psychology, Mexico
“I wanted to study abroad in my native country, México, to be away from Berkeley for a while. I first studied for a summer in México to learn about the history of my country. This experience left me wanting more from México so I decided to study for a whole semester at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). I chose México because that is where I was born and I wanted to go back to explore my ancestor’s homeland, learn about my history and be with family. I wanted to be in México during the important festivities, such as Independence Day, Día de los Muertos, Christmas, and New Year’s.”
Dalia: Spanish, Mexico
“The most memorable aspect of my time abroad was definitely getting to meet my family there for the first time. It was an emotional experience and I'm so grateful I got to learn more about my cultural heritage.”
Jeffrey: Computer Science and Economics, China
“I chose to study in China because as a Chinese American, I wanted to learn more about my family's culture.”
Jessica: Economics, China
“My biggest challenge was probably trying to learn about India without letting my preconceived notions get in the way. I kept an open mind and remained observant. Questioning things, from what I saw on the street to points raised in lecture, was also a great way to actively learn and understand the complexities of Delhi and India.”
Meher: Political Science, India
“Having been born in Taiwan but moved to America, I wanted to experience current Taiwanese society for myself—as a college student, and not just through the perspective of my family.”
Raya: Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Taiwan
Favreau, Caitlyn. “Going Home to China.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2015)
García, Elisabet Raquel. “How Study Abroad Helped Me Embrace the Complexities of All My Identities.” The Californian Abroad. (2022)
Harrison, Moira. “Forging a New Path, Revisiting an Old One” (2016)
Maldonado, Briza. “What the Food in Buenos Aires Taught Me About My Latina Identity.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me.
Mercado, Ramil. “Incorporating Identity Into Study Abroad” The Californian Abroad. (2021)
Mishra, Chaitan. “Finding Identity as an Indian Heritage Student.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2018)
Puliatti, Jacqueline and Gray, Rachel. “12 Signs You Studied Abroad In Ghana.” The Californian Abroad. (2017)
Rojas-Becerra, Carolina. “Exploring My Mexican Identity in México.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2019)
Yoon, Brandon. "Korean American Studying In Korea". The Californian Abroad. (2020)