Heritage or Native Speakers


Many people think of going abroad as living in a place where the language and culture are completely different from their own. While many students benefit from doing this, there are also great benefits to going to a place where you have a cultural/familial/linguistic connection. 

Whether it’s exploring your heritage in more depth, visiting your family’s home country for the first time, or developing language skills, you can have a very impactful experience as a heritage or native speaker of your host country’s language. 

While the experience of studying abroad as a heritage or native speaker can vary depending on your connection to your heritage, language level, and other factors, there are some benefits many heritage/native speakers experience. 

These include: 

  • Learning a language your family speaks for the first time or developing language skills you learned in an informal setting
  • Experiencing your education from a different perspective in your native language 
  • Learning more about your family’s culture or heritage 
  • Deepen understanding of a culture that is somewhat familiar to you 
  • Connecting with family members on a deeper level 
  • Learning new/surprising things about your own heritage and culture 

There are a few things you can do to maximize your time abroad as a heritage or native speaker. 

Preparation questions: 

  • What do you already know about the place you are visiting? 
  • What do you expect to find when you arrive? 
  • What do you hope to gain from your experience abroad? 
  • What do you hope to learn about your host culture, family history, and self? 
  • Do you have language proficiency goals? 
  • What does this destination mean to your identity? 

Heritage students/native speakers often find their experience abroad to be transformative, often in unexpected ways. 

Journaling and reflecting on your experiences while abroad and when you return can help maximize the benefit. 

Here are a few topics to reflect on while abroad and when you return: 

  • What are your first impressions? What is familiar, and what is unexpected? 
  • What do I have in common with people in the community I am living in?
  • What differences are there between my experiences abroad and at home? 
  • What have I learned about my own identity? Which parts come from the country I am visiting and which parts come from the community I grew up in? Where do they intersect? 
  • What are perceptions of people living in my host country about my identity? 
  • How can apply the knowledge, skills, and experiences I’ve gained abroad to my life at home? 

Did you know that a global education experience can help you earn the SDSU University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence

This designation is a digital badge SDSU students can earn through participating in a cultural and linguistic immersion experience and demonstrating working proficiency through standardized testing.