March 17, 2014

Cornell Minority Students Lack Presence Abroad

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By ANIKA SETHY

Cornell’s study abroad program — in light of the University’s goal to double enrollment by 2020 — faces an underrepresentation of minority students, according to Corinna Lewis, outreach coordinator for Cornell Abroad.

Lewis said that this underrepresentation — both nationwide and at Cornell — exists due to financial barriers and family dynamics in minority families.

“For some students of color, concerns about cost short-circuit their exploration of their options before they start,” Lewis said. “In some cases, family may be a deterrent to study abroad. If the student is far from home, first generation or the family can’t afford to visit, pressure can be put on the student to stay in the U.S.”

“President Skorton’s decision will have a ripple effect where ‘studying abroad’ becomes a part of Cornell’s culture. Thus, I do believe that more minorities will join the movement to obtain an international experience.” —Xavier Douglas ’15

According to Gretchen Mosereiff, data steward for CUAbroad, only 4 percent of students studying abroad identified as Latino or Latina in 2013, in comparison to a 10 percent enrollment rate of Latino undergraduate students in Cornell overall. Asian students made up less than 10 percent of students studying abroad, but almost 15 percent of students at Cornell.

This is in contrast to a nearly 57 percent enrollment rate of Caucasian students in study abroad programs versus a 47 percent enrollment rate at the University, according to Mosereiff.

Lewis added that the University has actively encouraged minority students to participate in study abroad programs by partnering with other on campus groups and student events.

“Students of color are part of the overall ‘face’ of CUAbroad,” she said. “[CUAbroad] constantly seeks to dispel the myth of the financial barrier by promoting the fact that the financial aid ‘goes with you’ and includes all expenses.”

Stephanie Martinez ’14, the president of Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, said she does not personally know many minority students who have gone abroad.

“Although students should take initiative in finding programs to enhance their experience at Cornell, sometimes we just don’t know about all the opportunities that we have available, especially if you are a first generation college student like myself,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of great resources, but I haven’t really seen much exposure to the idea of studying abroad in these places.”

Nancy Cervantes ’15, co-chair of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, said the underrepresentation of minority students may also be caused by family values and, in some cases, immigration issues.

“Many first generation students are also a very important part of their families, and they are seen as the role model and sometimes caretaker of the family, so leaving the country for an extended amount of time could be problematic,” Cervantes said. “There is also the matter of undocumented students as they cannot leave the country for these programs.”

Edwin Rosendo ’15, co-chair of the Men of Color Council — who is currently in the process of applying to study abroad in London — however, said that his status as a minority has had no effect on his application experience.

“The reason I chose to study abroad was purely to obtain experiences I haven’t had before and in choosing a site to study abroad, the fact that I am a minority never really played a large role,” he said. “I believe anyone studying abroad, being a minority or not, becomes a minority in whichever country they choose to study abroad.”

Xavier Douglas ’15 — who has traveled to over 14 countries while at Cornell — said he often feels like an “ambassador” for minorities while he is abroad.

“I remember when a group of students bombarded me when I was in France asking me to rap, and when I was involuntarily selected to play basketball in Italy,” Douglas said. “These types of situations do not make me feel uncomfortable, but rather provide me with an opportunity to positively change conventional stereotypes that are held by foreigners about minorities in the United States.”

Douglas also said the University as a whole has made an active effort to encourage study abroad.

“President Skorton’s decision will have a ripple effect where ‘studying abroad’ becomes a part of Cornell’s culture,” Douglas said. “Thus, I do believe that more minorities will join the movement to obtain an international experience.”

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