What is it like to be a part of the non-majority group in a racially homogenous country? What is it like to be in the racial majority group? Are womens' experiences abroad significantly different than mens'? What of LGBTQ students, what are their experiences in cultures that are more or less accepting of the queer community?
These important questions - and many more - are one important focus of the Study Abroad Office. In addition to promoting diversity within international education, we organize events that highlight social identities that become more or less apparent while abroad. Part of the pre-departure meeting for students about to embark on their semester or year abroad is a workshop on navigating social identities abroad. Below is a list of excellent resources on social identities in education abroad.
Seattle University's website:
In the United States, we tend to use different characteristics of our personalities, backgrounds, and/or physical selves to help us discern who we are as individuals, and to help us understand how we fit within the larger context of our culture and population. Many of us identify with several groups at once.
When preparing to immerse yourself in another culture, it is important to reflect on the different ways you identify as an individual. You may find that a majority identification in the United States is a rarity in your host culture. For instance, if your race is a huge identifying factor for you at home, you might be surprised to learn that while abroad, your nationality (U.S. citizen) could become much more important to those around you.
To decide what is important to disclose to your host community, you may want to think about what parts of your identity might create barriers for you in experiencing that host culture. For instance, will your African host culture find your vegetarian lifestyle offensive? If so, could you "shelve" it for the duration of your program? Likewise, U.S. students may want to wait and understand their host climates before disclosing political party beliefs and alignments.
For more information on specific identity issues and study abroad, please visit the following links:
- Disability and Study Abroad
- Religion and Study Abroad
- Race and Study Abroad
- GLBT Students and Study Abroad
- Transgender Students Abroad
- Gender and Study Abroad
- IES Abroad Country-specific Diversity Resources
- IFSA-Butler Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me
- The Plato Project
It is important for transgender and non-binary students to be informed about the new culture they will be entering and to select a program and country carefully. The Study Abroad Office is ready to help you investigate countries of interest to you, so please use us as a resource. You may also find the resources below helpful:
- The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has tips for transgender travelers.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality offers advice for trans travelers and advocacy resources.
- University of California Davis’ LGBTQIA Resource Center’s interactive world map
- Travel Concerns for Transsexual and Transgender People, by Calpernia Addams
- Correcting names on your social security card through the US Social Security Administration and your passport through the US Department of State
- "Suggestions for LGBTQ Students Going Abroad"
- "10 Reasons Why LGBTQ Students Should Study Abroad"
- "Air Travel Tips for Transgender Students Studying Abroad"
The PLATO Project, an "integrated study abroad training, certification, and diversity outreach program" was designed to provide support to students studying abroad from underrepresented backgrounds.