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Heritage Seekers

Heritage seekers or heritage learners are sometimes described as students who are drawn to study abroad in a particular country and culture "not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar" (IIE). For many students, studying abroad in a country of ancestry or cultural heritage is an opportunity to connect with their family and personal history and culture. For other students, studying abroad in a particular country or region can offer insights into their home culture or ancestry—such as racial or religious ancestry—even if there is not a direct ancestral or familial connection.

Studying abroad as a heritage seeker can be a complex journey that brings expected, as well as unexpected, experiences and emotions. It can be incredibly fulfilling to find community and cultural connection in a country of ancestry or heritage, and for many heritage seeker study abroad students, this connection is nuanced with moments of cultural distinction. For example, students may at times be identified more as an American or a non-local; experience generalizations about their racial/ethnic identities; or face different expectations from community members due to cultural ties. Yet through these complex experiences, heritage seeker students often report a newfound sense of belonging and a more in-depth understanding of their own identity through their time abroad.

Some students expect or seek a feeling of home during heritage seeking trips. The experience itself will likely be a spectrum of highs and lows, so we'd like to share some resources.

Read more about specific identities and locations below.

Learn About Your Destination

Heritage seeker students often report unique needs, goals, and challenges. You are encouraged to research your destination to understand how your various identities may intersect with your study abroad experience. You may find it helpful to read about other heritage seeker students' perspectives during this process.

Learn About Your Destination

Region-Specific Considerations & Resources

Heritage Seekers in Africa:

Heritage Seekers in Asia:

Heritage Seekers in Latin America:

Heritage Seekers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):

Student Experiences

Each student's experience is unique. The below student experiences are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to offer a variety of perspectives from Northwestern students who have studied abroad with heritage seeking motivations.