You may feel that you are the "other" because you are the only person or one of the few people with your identity(s). In context, "othering" occurs when a marginalized identity differs, and is often excluded, from that of the dominant culture. When speaking of othering in this context Jiaqi Zhou defines it in a helpful way. “Othering is a way of negating another person's individual humanity and, consequently, those that have been othered are seen as less worthy of dignity and respect. On an individual level, othering plays a role in the formation of prejudices against people and groups.” (Jiaqi Zhou, Very Well Mind)
If we let it, being othered can be a heavy burden to carry.
There can also be a sense of pride and liberation in being one of the few or only, because it shows that we are fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors. In this way, you are following in the footsteps of your ancestors, elders, and peers who have studied abroad. Many of them were one of the only or one of the few as well.
We aren’t new to this. I was one of the only in my graduate cohort both in the U.S and abroad. Instead of seeing it as a negative I was reminded that I/we come from a resilient community that continues to defy the odds that have been systemically stacked against me as a Black woman, by no fault of my own.
Can you relate?
If you can, here are three tips that can help you stand in your greatness and brilliance as you show up and take part in a study abroad program even when no one else shares your identities.
Find Support - Know that you come from a strong community of people who support, encourage, and affirms you. This can be your family, friends, trusted professors, or advisors. It can be a mentor, a fellow student, alumni etc. Someone who loves and/or cares for you. Someone who wants to see you win. You do not have to do this alone; If you are unable to find community or family support, we at AIFS Abroad are here to walk with you and provide resources along the way if this sounds good to you.
Accept Your Difference/Your Superpower Know that there is true value in being different, in standing out, and taking up space. Being “othered” by people who do not know or understand you is often due to ignorance, a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy on the part of the other person/people. This is not something that you are responsible for. It is not your responsibility to teach them if you don’t want or feel equipped to. Instead, reach out to your Resident Director, your professor, your advisor, or someone you trust for assistance.
Celebrate your existence and your instincts in the program. You worked hard for this.
You put you out there. You are continually stepping outside of your comfort zone. You are strengthening your resilience, your cross-cultural skills, which you can continue to apply globally and within the United States. You are doing such amazing things and it is a testament to the courageous person that you are.
Our team at AIFS Abroad is here to serve as a resource and an encouragement. We are here to help you prepare for the transformative study abroad experience. As you prepare feel free to check out our AIDE (Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity) resources and our Social Identity tabs on our site-specific pages. If you have questions or want to chat further, contact Kory Saunders, Director of Inclusion at AIFS Abroad.
Edited by: Adriana Smith, Regional Manager
Power Photo Credit: Karmran Chaudhry
First Photo Credit: Tionna McNeil Dublin Cliffs of Moher