Diversity Abroad

International Gender Roles

Tori Miller visits England

Every culture in the world possesses different values and expectations regarding behavior for women and men. It is important for you to research your host culture’s attitudes on gender roles.

Speech or actions that could be common behavior for women in the United States may be misinterpreted in other countries. Be sure to look into norms regarding culturally appropriate dress, social and friendship practices and dating abroad. Be aware of the stereotypes others may have of a female college student from the United States.

Male students should be aware of their behavior abroad and understand how it may be interpreted. What are the expectations of men in your host culture? Ask questions such as, "Is it culturally appropriate for me to be alone with a person of the opposite sex?" or "Could my body language or actions be misinterpreted as more than platonic politeness?"

If you are concerned about experiencing, or have experienced, a bias incident abroad, talk with your resident director, in-country contacts and/or other students in your group. Build a support community of other people you trust before you depart or while in country.

A good resource on these and many other topics, such as religious diversity abroad or going abroad as a first-generation college student, is the Diversity Guide to Study Abroad. The guide includes many site-specific destination guides to assist as you get ready to depart.

Racial Diversity

Cultural and racial diversity are often significant factors for students in choosing an education abroad program. You should research attitudes regarding race and ethnicity in the host country and do a self-examination of your understanding of your own racial and ethnic identity. Attitudes toward race differ widely around the world, and reactions to racial differences may include curiosity and questions about your background or generalizations or assumptions about you based on your physical appearance. If you are in an area where people have had very little to no contact with others from your background, you may experience an elevated amount of attention in public places.

Some students of color abroad may be surprised to find that they are sometimes identified first by their nationality rather than their race or ethnicity.

Consider ahead of time what mental and emotional preparedness looks like to you, if you experience prejudice, discrimination or harassment abroad. Put your safety first. If you are concerned about experiencing, or have experienced, a racially motivated incident abroad, talk with your resident director, in-country contacts and/or other students in your group. Build a support community of other people before you depart or while in country.

Review the Racial & Ethnic Minority Students Abroad resource prior to traveling. 

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Studying abroad can be a great time for self-exploration and individual growth. If you are LGBTQIA+, it is important to research your host country’s attitudes, laws and related crime rates prior to your departure.

Some students struggle with the concept of being out abroad or being true to who they are. Other students find it easier to be out abroad than at home if they are in a location that is affirming of who they are and/or able to build a community. When determining whether to confide in others or express your sexual identity abroad, your safety always comes first. You may be able to confide in other students in your education abroad group. There may be spaces abroad, such as cafes, bookstores or other local places, that can be resources in providing a sense of community. The cultural norms regarding openly discussing sexuality may be different from what you are used to at home, as well as the terms and slang used in your host country to talk about dating and sexuality.

If you are concerned about experiencing, or have experienced, a bias incident abroad, talk with your resident director, in-country contacts and/or other students in your group. Build a support community of other people you trust before you depart or while in country.

Review the LGBTQ+ Students Abroad resource prior to traveling.