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.
From 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.
Resources On Social Identities
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.