Coming In From the Outside: How College Students From Outside the United States Integrate United States Perceptions of Race and Color into Their Identities


This paper examined the question of how students coming from outside the United States integrate the United States cultural dynamics of race and color into their identities during their college experience in the United States.

This study was conducted through the use of a survey and four focus groups. Two focus groups were from Reed College and two focus groups were from Lewis and Clark College. Both colleges were located in Portland, Oregon. Eighteen students participated in the study and they have had cultural living experiences in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

The research reveals that several categories used to identify groups of people outside the United States and the challenges they faced when the United States models of classification do not fit their sense of self. Factors such as economics, religion, and language were stronger detriments to identity development for these students than were race and skin color. Upon coming to the United States, these students encountered ignorance and clear separation of groups based on culture and race.

The conclusions from the study indicate a strong need to develop identity models that are inclusive of more of the factors that determine a person’s identity. This research begins the conversation about what these new identity models might look like.


International and Comparative Education

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