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Identity Considerations

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As you explore your study abroad options, consider aspects of your identity and how these may be perceived in other countries and cultures. We encourage you to do some research into social norms and cultural values when looking into possible programs and locations.

Race & Ethnicity

Two individuals studying abroad in the same country on the same program will not have quite the same experience. This sometimes holds especially true for students from minority ethnic or racial backgrounds. Some students report feeling exhilarated by being outside the American context of race relations; others experience different degrees of innocent curiosity about their ethnic background and sometimes experience familiar or new types of ostracism.

There is no reason that this should keep you from studying abroad, but it is important to be aware so as to be prepared. Try to find other minority students who have studied or traveled in your host country who can provide you with some advice before you go. If you have not done so already, talk to a representative of the program or university you are considering about the local cultural realities.

Link: Further reading on this topic:  

AllAbroad.us 
DiversityAbroad.com
PLATO: Project for Learning Abroad, Training & Outreach

Gender Identity

Whether you’ve traveled before or this is your first time abroad, it’s important to consider your host country’s cultural attitude towards gender identity. Depending on where you are, you may find different gender roles and norms than you’re used to. Some countries have well-defined gender roles, while others are more fluid with their perception of gender identity. It’s important to be patient with what you might see as restrictive, or too progressive. Finding ways to engage with these differences and to learn from them is an important part of cross-cultural understanding.

However, it is a reality that you might may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on the culture’s attitudes around gender identity and gender rights. Everyone should consider possible issues, challenges, and changes they may face while abroad regarding societal perceptions of gender. When researching potential programs, consider your host country’s cultural differences and how these might impact your everyday life.

Link: Further reading on this topic:

DiversityAbroad.com

LGBTQI Students

You may already identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex, or you may still be exploring your identity. In either case, you will find that the social climate, laws, and personal interactions of other cultures will often differ from the U.S. While researching study abroad programs and preparing for departure, it is important to reflect on the culturally based ideas and definitions of gender and sexual identity. Consider carefully how your identity as a LGBTQI person may influence your relationships with host nationals, your cultural adjustment, and your overall education abroad experience.

It is also important to be aware of the laws pertaining to gender and/or sexual identity in your host country as well as the popular attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer individuals. Some students feel more acceptance abroad than they do in the United States, while others feel discrimination or harassment. Whatever the general attitude is toward gender and/or sexual identity in your host country, there will be those who dissent from the general attitude one way or the other. Try to talk with other students who have studied abroad in your host-country and refer to the resources below when researching programs.

Link: Further reading on this topic:

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
The International Lesbian and Gay Association
DiversityAbroad.com

Disability & Accessibility

Although programs and universities abroad are becoming more aware of the inclusion of students with disabilities, the extent to which accommodations can be provided depends on the nature of the accommodation, the general situation in that particular country regarding accessibility and available services, and the creativity and flexibility of the student and staff/faculty in planning for the experience abroad. Programs will try to provide accommodations as necessary, such as more exam time for a student with a learning difference, materials in alternative formats or readers for someone who is blind, interpreters for a deaf participant, or an accessible home-stay for a person who uses a wheelchair. We encourage you to reach out to us while you look into your study abroad options. To discuss what accommodations your might need, contact a study abroad adviser or Judy York, Director of Yale’s Resource Office on Disabilities.

Link: Further reading on this topic:

Yale’s Resource Office on Disabilities
Mobility International
DiversityAbroad.com