Student Identities in Study Abroad
Goucher College is committed to providing study abroad programs that meet the needs and interests of our diverse population of students. The Office of International Studies now partners with Diversity Abroad, and we offer confidential advising for students who have questions and concerns about study abroad relating to personal identity. We encourage all students to visit the following sites and speak with an OIS advisor to learn more about personal identity and study abroad. The best thing you can do if you're concerned about your own diversity while studying abroad is to research your host country and familiarize yourself with the country's culture, history, and laws.
Racial & Ethnic Concerns
For many students, studying abroad provides a new lense through which they are able to view their race or ethnicity as part of their identity. However, it can be challenging to live for the first time in a country where you are an ethnic or racial majority or minority depending on where your host country is located. Additionally, it can be jarring to experience ethnic or racial views that in America are generally seen as racist but reflect the values of your host country. Often, as a student studying abroad, you are seen as American first and a member of your racial or ethnic background second. Learning how to navigate these nuances is part of why studying abroad is so important and should not deter you from embarking on this journey. Remember, different attitudes exist wherever you go regardless of your ethnic or racial background. Doing research on your host country can help prepare you for what to expect while living in your host country. Check the resources below to find links to more information.
Things to Consider
- I am a racial or ethnic majority in America, but will I be a racial or ethnic minority abroad? Or visa versa?
- What are the attitudes of the natives in my host country about my race or ethnicity? Am I likely to be a target of racism or classism? Or will I be treated the same way in my host country as I am in the United States?
- What is the history of race and ethnicity in my host country? What are the laws and social values regarding race and ethnicity?
When studying abroad it is important to be aware that the places you visit can be more or less liberal than what you are used to at home. Laws and attitudes toward sexual orientation and different lifestyles vary from country to country. In some countries it may be illegal, culturally unaccepted, or even dangerous to come out, but in others being out may be supported and accepted. The best thing you can do is to thoroughly research your host country before leaving. Check the resources below to find links to more information.
Things to Consider
- If the country I am studying abroad in does not accept my identity, how will this impact my overall experience abroad and my self-identity?
- What are the laws and legal rights surrounding my identity? What are the social expectations or norms?
- Does the housing the program provides suit my needs? If living with a host family will I choose to come out to them before I arrive or feel out the situation first?
- If I utilize health or counseling services at home will I have access to these resources abroad?
- If your legal sex is different than the way you self identify, or if you are in the process of a transition, what kinds of things might you need to be successful abroad? What types of challenges might you face with travel, immigration, and other documents?
Physical or Learning Differences
In the wise words of Jennifer from the University of Minnesota, "Don't expect anything, just be prepared to react to everything." Some countries or host universities will not recognize learning or physical differences or have the capacity to accommodate them as well as U.S. universities - however, some will. Make sure to thoroughly research your host university and program to get details about the kinds of accommodations they have so you can advocate for yourself and make sure the program will allow you to be successful. If you are living with a disability the advisors in the Office of International Studies are happy to help you research and find a program that will fit your needs. Check the resources below to find links to more information.
Things to Consider
- How will my university and host country accommodate my needs?
- Have you contacted Goucher’s study abroad office to make sure your program can help you be successful? Did you talk to ACE?
- How does my host country treat people who are living with disabilities? What rights and laws are in place to accommodate those living with disabilities?
- What might I need to stay safe and to help me as I travel abroad?
Religion and Spirituality
Religion and culture are often intertwined in many countries around the world. It can be a wonderfully eye opening experience to learn about and experience a different religion and the rituals that surround it. This process may cause you to reflect on your own belief system. It is important to research the religious beliefs of your host country, but also to especially keep an open mind. Check the resources below to find links to more information.
Things to Consider
- Do I plan to practice my religion abroad?
- How much do I know about the belief system in my host country?
- Do I share a the dominant religion of my host country? If so what does that mean for my experience and if not, what do I need to be mindful of?
- What is the attitude of my host country towards other religions?
- Are there specific laws regarding religion in my host country? Are government and religion separated?
- Will I have access to my religion’s place of worship or religious groups? If not what does that mean for my religious practice?
- Will my host country be able to accommodate my religious dietary restrictions?