As an African student abroad, this is definitely something you may be dealing with on a regular basis depending on which corner of the world you find yourself in. Some of you to a lesser extent if lucky enough to be living in places richer in melanin concentration 😀 than others e.g. South Africa (I imagine this is also the case for Brazil, France, the UK and some states in the USA). “Not noticing the difference” as many people tend to claim may be true, BUT as human beings we tend to be naturally wired towards seeing race/colour first. This is true for many people, even those with friends from walks of life i.e. religions, races and cultures. Admitting it does not make you a bad person, it just means your eyes work :D.
As part of the minority in the room you are probably going to be starred at A LOT! Internally though you will wish you had others around that looked like you so you do not stick out like a sore thumb. Sound familiar? Chillax many of us go through these emotions more often than we would like to admit :D. You might meet that one granny who visited “Africa” in the 1950s overly eager to chat to you (for longer than you wish), or that curious person keen to understand your background, whom your connection is in the room and maybe start a debate on politics in Africa; or maybe you will meet that one grumpy person (for whatever reasons) and my advice to you then would be, just keep doing the rounds and move on swiftly to the next person…:D). You yourself have a few stereotypes and/or presumption about other races/cultures you heard from friends and family.
Two things can happen : (i) you can take it negatively and close yourself off based on a couple of negative experiences and/or your own internal fears; or (ii) embrace the new environment positively and give everyone the benefit of the doubt (i.e. if a white person was in the streets of Bandal in Kinshasa, he would be starred at as well….it is just human nature, those stares don’t necessarily mean anything negative, in that case…it also means their eyes work well :D).
My advice to you as an ASA is to choose the latter as whether white, black, asian, etc. At the end of the day, we are all human first and just like everyone else: we hurt, we laugh, trust, have dreams, like to feel appreciated and respected. You have a lot more in common with most people (completely different from your race) than you think, and this is what builds relationships/friendships-not the colour of our skin automatically. Take the plunge and start that conversation! Who knows, it might be the beginning of a beautiful longterm friendship :D.
Hope you enjoyed this article, do leave a comment below, would love to know where your friends come from, and how you adapted as an ASA. Do check out this article I wrote if keen to know more about cultural differences I encountered as an ASA and how I overcame them (https://africanstudentsabroad.com/2016/05/01/cultural-differences-you-are-bound-to-face-as-an-african-student-abroad/).