Spatialized Race and Sense of Belonging: Experiences of Black Students in Study Abroad


  • Cherese F. Fine Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Katrina Black Reed Penn State Abington
  • Lauren N. Duffy Clemson University
  • Laetitia K. Adelson University of Georgia
  • Jason Combs Clemson University
  • Kendra Stewart-Tillman Clemson University



Black students, diasporic travel, place and space, sense of belonging, study abroad


Using a case study approach, this study examined the role that spatialized notions of race and sense of belonging had on 10 Black students from a predominantly White institution, in a diasporic study abroad experience in Cuba. In particular, this study explored how race was situated in the study abroad program (space) and in Cuba (place) and how it impacted Black students’ sense of belonging. Findings indicated the location and content of the study abroad experience, along with the group makeup of the trip, created a positive sense of belonging for Black students. Specifically, the themes that emerged include, Racialized Spaces: Connection to Blackness in the Program and Racialized Places: Connection to Blackness in the Destination. This study supports the importance of designing intentional programs that can build community and sense of belonging for Black students abroad.


Abstract in Spanish

Utilizando un enfoque de estudio de caso, este estudio examinó el papel que las nociones espacializadas de raza y sentido de pertenencia tuvieron en 10 estudiantes negros de una institución predominantemente blanca, en una experiencia de estudio diaspórico en el extranjero en Cuba. En particular, este estudio exploró cómo se situaba la raza en el programa de estudios en el extranjero (espacio) y en Cuba (lugar) y cómo impactaba el sentido de pertenencia de los estudiantes negros. Los hallazgos indicaron que la ubicación y el contenido de la experiencia de estudiar en el extranjero, junto con la composición del grupo del viaje, crearon un sentido positivo de pertenencia para los estudiantes negros. Específicamente, los temas que surgieron incluyen Espacios racializados: conexión con la negritud en el programa y Lugares racializados: conexión con la negritud en el destino. Este estudio respalda la importancia de diseñar programas intencionales que puedan construir una comunidad y un sentido de pertenencia para los estudiantes negros en el extranjero.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Cherese F. Fine, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Dr. Cherese Fine is an Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her scholarship focuses on the experiences of Black college students as well as the dynamics of intercollegiate athletics. Her higher ed career has included developing and coordinating several programs centered on college access and readiness, retention, and success among minoritized populations.

Katrina Black Reed, Penn State Abington

Dr. Katrina Black Reed is an Assistant Professor at Penn State Abington in the department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. Her research focuses on justice-oriented approaches that are conscious-building, researcher participatory-based, and foster belonging and positive development among youth. She currently plans educational trips abroad that allow students to participate in intercultural exchange.

Lauren N. Duffy, Clemson University

Dr. Lauren Duffy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University. Her research program is grounded within critical leisure and tourism studies where she explores issues of power in tourism planning and development, rural and community-based tourism planning, gender and feminist epistemologies, political economy, local food systems, and resident-tourist relationships. Her pedagogical research has focused on critical pedagogy, international education, service-learning, collaboration, and transformative learning.

Laetitia K. Adelson, University of Georgia

Laetitia Adelson is a Senior Career Consultant and third-year doctoral student at the University of Georgia. Her research agenda focuses on the experiences of Black students and intercollegiate athletics. Her higher education career has always focused on creating programs and spaces that focus on college and career readiness where students can thrive. She earned her M.Ed. in Counselor education at Clemson and her Bachelor of science in Health Promotion from The University of Georgia.

Jason Combs, Clemson University

Jason Combs is the Director of the Clemson-based college access program Emerging Scholars. He earned a B.A in political science and an M.Ed. in counselor education with an emphasis in student affairs from Clemson University. He has spent his higher education career supporting students along the I-95 corridor of South Carolina as they access higher education. Jason is passionate about his work building bridges to higher education for underrepresented students.

Kendra Stewart-Tillman, Clemson University

Dr. Kendra Stewart-Tillman is an educator whose work and research focuses on creating inclusive campus cultures and building intercultural capacity for all individuals and institutions. She currently serves as the Associate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Division of Inclusion and Equity at Clemson University. She earned a Bachelor’s in Communications from Wake Forest University, a Master’s in Higher Education Administration from Harvard University and a PhD in Educational Leadership from Clemson University.


Adams, T. A. (2005). Establishing intellectual space for Black students in predominantly White universities through Black studies. Negro Educational Review, 56(4), 285.

Aitchison, C. (1999). New cultural geographies: The spatiality of leisure, gender, and sexuality. Leisure Studies, 18(1). 19-39. DOI:

Biddix, J. P. (2018). Research methods and applications for student affairs. Jossey-Bass.

Brownell, J. E., & Swaner, L. E. (2009). High-impact practices: Applying the learning outcomes literature to the development of successful campus programs. Peer Review, 11(2), 26-31.

Brux, J., & Ngoboka, P. (2002, November). Underrepresented U.S. students and international study. [Poster presentation]. The Council on International Educational Exchange Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage.

Cole, J. B. (1980). Race toward equality: The impact of the Cuban revolution on racism. The Black Scholar, 11(8), 2-24. DOI:

Cook-Sather, A., & Felten, P. (2017). Where student engagement meets faculty development: How student-faculty pedagogical partnership fosters a sense of belonging. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(2), 3-11.

Covington, M. (2017). If not us then who? Exploring the role of HBCUs in increasing Black student engagement in study abroad. College Student Affairs Leadership, 4(1).

Cross Jr, W. E. (1991). Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American identity. Temple University Press.

Cross, W. E. (1971). Negro to Black conversion experience: Toward a psychology of Black liberation. Black World, 20(9), 13-27.

Davis, G. M., Hanzsek-Brill, M. B., Petzold, M. C., & Robinson, D. (2019). Students’ sense of belonging: The development of a predictive retention model. The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 19(1), 117-127. DOI:

De Vito, C. G. (2018). Punishment and labour relations. Cuba between abolition and empire (1835-1886). Crime, Histoire & Sociétés/Crime, History & Societies, 22(1), 53-79. DOI:

DiAngelo, R. (2012). Nothing to add: A challenge to white silence in racial discussions. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 2(1), 1-17.

Duffy, L. N., Fernandez, M., & Sène-Harper, A. (2022). Digging deeper: Engaging in reflexivity in interpretivist-constructivist and critical leisure research. In F. Yuen & K. Gallant (Eds.), The messiness of leisure research: Explorations of research processes (pp. 102-120). Routledge. DOI:

Duran, A., Dahl, L. S., Stipeck, C., & Mayhew, M. J. (2020). A critical quantitative analysis of students' sense of belonging: Perspectives on race, generation status, and collegiate environments. Journal of College Student Development, 61(2), 133-153. DOI:

Elkins, B., & Hanke, E. (2018). Code‐switching to navigate social class in higher education and student affairs. New Directions for Student Services, 2018(162), 35-47. DOI:

Fields, K. E., & Fields, B. J. (2014). Racecraft: The soul of inequality in American life. Verso Trade.

Goodenow, C., & Grady, K. E. (1993). The relationship of school belonging and friends' values to academic motivation among urban adolescent students. The Journal of Experimental Education, 62(1), 60-71. DOI:

Harwood, S. A., Mendenhall, R., Lee, S. S., Riopelle, C., & Huntt, M. B. (2018). Everyday racism in integrated spaces: Mapping the experiences of students of color at a diversifying predominantly white institution. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(5), 1245-1259. DOI:

Hawthorne, C. (2019). Black matters are spatial matters: Black geographies for the twenty‐first century. Geography Compass, 13(11), 1-13. DOI:

hooks, b. (1990). Postmodern blackness. Postmodern Culture, 1(1). DOI:

Hulstrand, J. (2016). Increasing diversity in education abroad. International Educator, 16, 56-60.

Hunter, C. D., Case, A. D., & Harvey, I. S. (2019). Black college students’ sense of belonging and racial identity. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 23(9), 950-966. DOI:

Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. F. (1997). Effects of college transition and perceptions of the campus racial climate on Latino college students' sense of belonging. Sociology of Education, 70(4), 324-345. DOI:

Hurtado, S., & Ponjuan, L. (2005). Latino educational outcomes and the campus climate. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 4(3), 235-251. DOI:

Hussain, M., & Jones, J. M. (2021). Discrimination, diversity, and sense of belonging: Experiences of students of color. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 14(1), 63 –71. DOI:

Institute of International Education. (2022). Percent of U.S. study abroad students by field of study 2000/01-2020/21 [Data set]. Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

Key, S. L. (2018). Black American undergraduates studying abroad: What Are their intentions and behaviors? (Publication No.13819828) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2010). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. Jossey-Boss.

Lambert, S. D., & Loiselle, C. G. (2008). Combining individual interviews and focus groups to enhance data richness. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(2), 228-237. DOI:

Leath, S., & Chavous, T. (2018). Black women's experiences of campus racial climate and stigma at predominantly white institutions: Insights from a comparative and within-group approach for STEM and non-STEM majors. Journal of Negro Education, 87(2), 125-139. DOI:

Lee, J. A., & Green, Q. (2016). Unique opportunities: Influence of study abroad on Black students. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 28(1), 61-77. DOI:

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1986). But is it rigorous? Trustworthiness and authenticity in naturalistic evaluation. New Directions for Program Evaluation, 1986(30), 73-84. DOI:

Lorz, M., Netz, N., & Quast, H. (2016). Why do students from underprivileged families less often intend to study abroad? Higher Education, 72, 153-174. DOI:

Lu, C., Reddick, R., Dean, D., & Pecero, V. (2015). Coloring up study abroad: Exploring Black students’ decision to study in China. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 52(4), 440-451. DOI:

Luo, J., & Jamieson-Drake, D. (2015). Predictors of study abroad intent, participation, and college outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 56, 29-56. DOI:

Marques, L. (2012). Slave trading in a new world: The strategies of North American slave traders in the age of abolition. Journal of the Early Republic, 32(2), 233-260. DOI:

McDonald, H., Asbill, M., Powell, T., Billman, S., Ozkan, S. & Faulkner, S. (2019). A collaborative study abroad model: Inspiring fiscally underrepresented students. In J. Hoffman, P. Blessinger, and M. Makhanya (Eds.), Strategies for facilitating inclusive campuses in higher education: International perspectives on equity and inclusion. (Vol. 17, pp. 179-195). Emerald Publishing Limited. DOI:

McHan, M. J. (2019). Underrepresented Students and Study Abroad Programs: Examining Study Abroad Intentions and Study Abroad Participation (Publication No. 22620868) [Doctoral dissertation, San Diego State University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

McPherson, L. K., & Shelby, T. (2004). Blackness and blood: Interpreting African American identity. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 32(2), 171-192. DOI:

Metzger, C. A. (2006). Study abroad programming: A 21st century retention strategy? College Student Affairs Journal, 25(2), 164-175.

Mills, K. J. (2020). “It’s systemic”: Environmental racial microaggressions experienced by Black undergraduates at a predominantly White institution. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 13(1), 44-55. DOI:

Morgan, R. M., Mwegelo, D. T., & Turner, L. N. (2002). Black women in the African diaspora seeking their cultural heritage through studying abroad. NASPA Journal, 39(4), 333-353. DOI:

Murray Brux, J., & Fry, B. (2010). Multicultural students in study abroad: Their interests, their issues, and their constraints. Journal of Studies in International Education, 14(5), 508-527. DOI:

Museus, S. D., Yi, V., & Saelua, N. (2017). The impact of culturally engaging campus environments on sense of belonging. The Review of Higher Education, 40(2), 187-215. DOI:

Nelson, I. A., Graham, H. J., & Rudin, N. L. (2023). Saving face while (not) talking about race: How undergraduates inhabit racialized structures at an elite and predominantly white college. Social Problems, 70(2), 456-473. DOI:

Penn, E. B., & Tanner, J. (2009). Black students and international education: An assessment. Journal of Black Studies, 40(2), 266-282. DOI:

Perdreau, C. (2002). Building diversity into education abroad programs. Study Abroad: A 21st Century Perspective, 1.

Pipitone, J. M., & Raghavan, C. (2017). Socio-spatial analysis of study abroad students’ experiences in/of place in Morocco. Journal of Experiential Education, 40(3), 264-278. DOI:

Rhodes, G., & Hong, H. (2005, Fall). Project for learning abroad, training and outreach (PLATO): An integrated study abroad, training, certification, and diversity outreach program. IIENetworker Magazine.

Salisbury, M. H., Umbach, P. D., Paulsen, M. B., & Pascarella, E. T. (2009). Going global: Understanding the choice process of the intent to study abroad. Research in Higher Education, 50(2), 119-143. DOI:

Samura, M. (2016). Remaking selves, repositioning selves, or remaking space: An examination of Asian American college students' processes of "belonging." Journal of College Student Development, 57(2), 135-150. DOI:

Sellers, R. M., Smith, M. A., Shelton, J. N., Rowley, S. A., & Chavous, T. M. (1998). Multidimensional model of racial identity: A reconceptualization of African American racial identity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2(1), 18-39. DOI:

Soria, K. M., & Johnson, M. (2017). High-impact educational practices and the development of college students' pluralistic outcomes. College Student Affairs Journal, 35(2), 100-116. DOI:

Stallman, E., Woodruff, E., Kasravi, J., & Comp, D. (2010). The diversification of the student profile. In W. W. Hoffa & S. C. DePaul (Eds.), A history of U.S. study abroad: 1965-present (pp. 115-160). Dickinson College.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2012). Exploring the impact of Facebook and Myspace use on first-year students' sense of belonging and persistence decisions. Journal of College Student Development, 53(6), 783-796. DOI:

Sutherland, K., & Taylor, L. (2011). The development of identity, agency and community in the early stages of the academic career. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(3), 183-186. DOI:

Sweeney, K. (2013). Inclusive excellence and underrepresentation of students of color in study abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 23(1), 1-21. DOI:

Tarrant, M. A., Rubin, D. L., & Stoner, L. (2014). The added value of study abroad: Fostering a global citizenry. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(2), 141-161. DOI:

Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight "big-tent" criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16 (10), 837-851. DOI:

Tuan, Y. F. (1979). Space and place: Humanistic perspective. In S. Gale & G. Olsson (Eds.), Philosophy in geography (Vol. 20, pp. 387-427). Springer. DOI:

U.S. Department of Education. (2000). Enrollment in Title IV institutions, by student level, attendance status, gender, and race/ethnicity: United States and outlying areas, fall 2000 [Data set]. National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

U.S. Department of Education. (2018). Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control and classification of institution, level of enrollment, and race/ethnicity of student: 2018 [Data set]. National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Urciuoli, B. (2009). Talking/not talking about race: The enregisterments of culture in higher education discourses. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 19(1), 21-39. DOI:

Washington, D. D. (1998). African-American undergraduate students’ perceptions of and attitudes toward study abroad programs (Publication No. 9901923) [Doctoral dissertation, George Mason University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Wilkie, D. (2017). Supporting education abroad for underrepresented students. International Educator, 26(2), 52-55.

Yeboah, A. (2019). Beyond the Black study abroad experience: Developing the young AfricanA leadership initiative at Howard University. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Higher Education, 4(1), 1-21. DOI:

Yin, R. K. (2003). Applications of case study research (2nd ed.). Sage.




How to Cite

Fine, C. F., Black Reed, K., Duffy, L. N., Adelson, L. K., Combs, J., & Stewart-Tillman, K. (2024). Spatialized Race and Sense of Belonging: Experiences of Black Students in Study Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 36(1), 131–162.



Research Articles