Traveling abroad to learn about your family's ancestry is a popular reason cited by students who study abroad. Seeking information about your heritage can provide you with a first-hand account of your ancestry, new insights into your family's culture, and give you a chance to learn more of the language of your forebearers.
For many students, returning to a "familiar" destination can be eye-opening, connection-forging experiences. Others, however can become overwhelmed and identity-defining, emotional experience. This is because the reality of life in another culture that you have pre-conceived notions about may be dramatically different from stories that have been passed down. Some heritage seekers report feeling overwhelmed, not fully accepted in the country of origin, and more connected to their roots and family in the United States upon return, as their identity is redefined and needs to be re-examined.
Heritage seekers should be prepared for the "familiar" to feel "unfamiliar" and for cultural, ethnic, or religious identity to be significantly impacted. Students are encouraged to enter their host country with an open mind, to share their home-country culture, and connect with relatives and locals. Still, many students have overwhelmingly positive, transformative experiences. We encourage students to be prepared for any scenario, and to learn as much about themselves, their host culture, and the United States as possible.