SRAS Minorities Abroad Project
by Project Editor, Emily Wang, Princeton University
SRAS “Minorities Abroad” Project, launched online earlier this year by SRAS (the School for Russian and Asian Studies), began as an initiative by the Association for Students and Teachers of Color in Slavic Studies (STC, an affiliate of ASEEES: for more information, please check out our Facebook page) to make the issues faced by people of color traveling in the former Soviet sphere more transparent. In the past, professors, parents, and even some professionals involved in study abroad programs had some vague notions of the risk involved, but since Slavic and Eurasian studies programs are small, it was difficult to get a lot of accurate – and especially up-to-date – information. What should a professor tell an Asian-American student planning to go to Odessa for the first time when all she knows about students of color is what her former African-American student experienced in Moscow ten years ago?
With this project, our goal is to publish students’ own experiences in their own words. Everyone has a different experience studying abroad, and we don’t want to suggest that what happened to one person will definitely happen to another, even if they’re going to a similar place and share an ethnic background. At the same time, it’s really helpful to have a sense of what sorts of issues others have dealt with in the past, especially if one doesn’t have to rely on third-hand information. When contributors feel comfortable, they even include their e-mail addresses, so that future students studying abroad can contact them directly.
One of the exciting things about the former Soviet region is that it changes so quickly, but this can also be a problem when it comes to telling students what to expect. With the recent passage of new anti-gay laws, concern for LGTBQ people in Russia has risen. Recent tensions in Ukraine have seen a rise in nationalist sentiment all around the region that may put students of color, and foreign students in general, at greater risk. There’s no way we can anticipate exactly what to expect next. With this blog, though, we can illustrate a range of experiences minority students have had.
This blog will be more effective the more posts it has. In the future, we hope to feature posts from LBTBQ students, as well as students of color from different backgrounds in a variety of places in the former Soviet sphere. Anyone is welcome to contribute. Those interested in describing their experiences – anonymously or otherwise – are invited to e-mail project editor Emily Wang [email@example.com], site editor Josh Wilson [firstname.lastname@example.org], or any member of STC.