Oftentimes, Latinx students are grouped together as if the entire population feels the same about many topics. In other words, this group is mischaracterized as a monolithic group that shares identical characteristics.
However, we all know that's not true! Each person who is part of this vibrant community has their own voice and identity. As such, a "one-size-fits-all" approach can lead study abroad advisors at U.S. colleges and universities to overlook specific needs and concerns of this diverse population.
While there are, indeed, a great deal of similarities, there is also a rich diversity within the Latinx student population, and neglecting this can often lead staff to consider only one aspect of their identity (in this case, race and/or ethnicity). This, in turn, can create missed opportunities to increase Latinx participation in study abroad programs because of the multiplicity of identities that are all relevant for this population as they explore their journey abroad.
In order to appreciate Latinx students' uniqueness and help them navigate the study abroad process, it is critical to acknowledge the diversity that exists within the Latinx community. That's why we are highlighting nine perceptions (or misconceptions) related to Latinx students in the context of international programs.
We asked some recent IES Abroad Latinx alums to share their thoughts on some common misconceptions about Latinx students and study abroad. Here's what they have to say:
1. All Latinx students want to study abroad in Latin America.
"Not all Latinx students want to study abroad in Latin America for the same reason not all Asian American students want to study abroad in Asia: Ethnicity doesn't dictate where students want to travel to/learn from. On top of this, many Latinx students have already visited Latin America or are from there, and would rather travel to new/different places." - Natalia F. (IES Abroad Barcelona | Indiana University)
“This is not true, we are just like everyone else and want to explore the whole world. We want to learn about more cultures than just our own.” - Sol M. (IES Abroad Rome | Penn State University)
2. All Latinx students want to study abroad in Spanish-speaking countries.
"It's not a priority for me. My interests are primarily focused on Asia. I would much rather explore and study abroad there and/or in Europe. I would say that fellow Latinx students who study a language other than Spanish feel the same way." - Yasmine Y. (IES Abroad Nagoya | Austin College)
3. All Latinx students make study abroad decisions based on their heritage.
"Ethnicity, again, doesn't dictate study choice in every circumstance. It can certainly factor in, but everyone's identity is so complex that just one's ethnicity is not enough to dictate the whole decision. I made my decision, taking into account not only my heritage, but my interest in the different areas offered in terms of society, and culture." - Natalia F.
"No. I am a clear example of that, as I have no Asian heritage yet express a strong passion for Asian cultures." - Yasmine Y. (pictured at right, far left)
"I wanted to stay away from Mexico in order to experience a country that I was never familiar with." - Valencia A. (IES Abroad Santiago | Grinnell College)
4. All Latinx students studying abroad are first-generation immigrants.
"While many may be first-generation immigrants, stating all Latinx students are first-generation is a simplistic assumption formed from one's false ideas of who makes up the Latinx population." - Natalia F.
5. All Latinx families are very involved in the students' decision to study abroad.
"This is an assumption based on stereotypes of Latinx households in general, which (again) could be true for some but not all. My family, in particular, was involved in my decisions, to a certain degree, but ultimately knew it was my decision and allowed me to make it free from strong influence." - Natalia F.
“My family had no involvement in my decision to study abroad nor my decision to study in Chile. Leaving my home, it did not matter where I was because, either way, I wasn't home.” - Valencia A.
6. All Latinx students are financially challenged.
"This is not true. We are spread out across many economic classes, just like any other ethnic group." - Yasmine Y.
"While statistically, discrimination in the U.S. and systematic inequalities show that Latinx individuals, on average, make less than other ethnic groups, this doesn't apply in every scenario and is, to a degree, rooted in stereotypes." - Natalia F.
7. All Latinx students are not well-traveled.
"I think this assumption ties in with the assumption that Latinx people are financially challenged. However, this doesn't account for the fact that there are ways to budget travel so that it is possible to accomplish without thousands of dollars. Personally, I consider myself fairly well-traveled, but that happened because of scholarships, assistance, and a volunteer-based organization making accommodations free." - Natalia F.
8. All Latinx students share the same identity.
"No one shares the same complete identity. While I think our identity as Latinx individuals unites us, to a certain degree, I wouldn't consider my identity identical to people whose experiences differ in a number of ways from mine. Men don't share a gender identity with me, and heterosexual and bisexual (etc.) people don't share a sexual orientation with me. We are all unique individuals, even though we're all Latinx." - Natalia F.
"Many have different racial and ethnic identities and face discrimination in different ways while others do not. In Chile, I was able to blend into the population due to the whiteness of my skin, while some of my classmates could not. They were more easily picked out as different, and, therefore, expressed different public identities." - Valencia A. (pictured right)
“Everyone is different, everyone has a different story to tell, even if we all share the same culture.” - Sol M.
9. All Latinx students will easily assimilate when they study abroad in Spanish-speaking countries.
"Sometimes it's harder for Latinx to assimilate into Latin American countries, even if it is their family's home country. That can be, in part, that they have had no exposure to it, or because they have a tie to their American background/culture that prevents them from fully being immersed into whichever country they study in." - Julissa J. (IES Abroad Barcelona | Loyola University Chicago)
"It might be easier to get around places when you already know the language, but I don't believe they can easily assimilate." - Jaquelin D. (IES Abroad Nice | University of Texas Rio Grande Valley)
"Not all Latinx students speak or are fluent in, Spanish, so to assume that their ethnicity would make their assimilation into a Spanish-speaking country effortless regardless of other factors would be false." - Sol M.
"False. It largely depends on 1. the environment (the amount of exposure to their heritage culture" that the student grew up in, and 2. the dialect and pronunciation of Spanish in the country in comparison to their heritage dialect/pronunciation. Furthermore, factors that apply to other students abroad also apply to them (attitude, resourcefulness, dedication, etc)." - Yasmine Y.
Interested in more resources for Latinx students? Learn more about our Tu Mundo initiative, an integral part of IES Abroad's mission to educate global leaders.