No matter your identity, its always important to prepare yourself for different cultural, political and social norms in your host country.
If you are preparing to study abroad, it is normal to feel anxious, excited, and of course a bit unsure of what to expect. You’re about to begin a part of your life that will introduce you to cultural diversity that comes in many forms. Before you begin your journey exploring diverse countries and cultures, it is essential to be aware of cultural and social norms that differ from your own. Every country differs politically, socially and culturally, it is important to understand the norms of the country that will be host to you. It is essential to be aware of the differences around you and to learn how to adapt and respond to different situations. While sometimes challenging, this approach will give you the ability to assess environments that differ to your own while you’re abroad. Planning ahead and educating yourself are key to enabling a successful time abroad.
Understanding social norms while also staying true to your identity is a critical part of your time while abroad. Attitudes around your sexuality may not be comparable to that of your home country, this is why it is encouraged to be prepared and aware of norms surrounding your sexuality in the country you are visiting. It is recommended that you avail of the online resources provided to get a better look into the social norms, laws and your rights in the country you will be visiting. Please see the resources below for your convenience.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, trans and intersex association – Your gateway to information around the world regarding LGBT abroad.
U.S. Passports and international Travel LGBT Information – Look at the support and services available from the U.S. State Dept.
Goabroad.com – A guide to studying abroad for LGBT students.
Carelton– Read 10 reasons why LGBT students should study abroad.
Rainbow SIG– Study abroad resources for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+).
Goabroad.com LGBT scholarships – Check out opportunities for LGBT scholarships abroad.
LGBT Ireland – Resources for LGBT rights in Ireland.
It is crucial to know that while studying abroad you may encounter adversity in the way cultures perceive ethnicity or race when compared to your own country. While you may not be considered a minority related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any number of characteristics, in your home country, it is possible that you will considered “different” in your host country. It is important to be aware of and educate yourself about possible encounters with racial discrimination or prejudice. Many institutions provide a framework for handling certain situations, which you may find useful. You may find Northeastern University’s guide a useful tool for asking questions before traveling:
Thinking in advance of your program, can better prepare you. While not every scenario can be accounted for, it’s always good to have knowledge.
Diversityabroad.com – Connect with a diverse and global community.
Center for Global Education – Resources and support for diversity in study abroad.
Insight Into Diversity – Conversation on Diversity and inclusion: 11 steps to diversifying study abroad
Let’s focus on ability and study abroad. We all have varying abilities and luckily there are loads of networks, agencies and research on making study abroad successful if you identify as someone with a disability. Identifying as someone with a disability should not be something that deters you from studying abroad. Our goal at Learn International is to to support you during your study abroad experience, whether you identify as someone with a disability related to physical, mental/emotional or learning disability or not. This includes your home university, which often has resources for students to go abroad.
It is also helpful for students to work with their disability resource center on campus as well as be an advocate for themselves. It is pertinent that if you are thinking about studying abroad that you have good communication about your needs and accommodation requirements. Think about the different viewpoints towards disabilities different from your own country. The most important thing to ask yourself if you are someone who identifies with a disability:
diversityabroad.com – Pre-departure information geared toward students with disabilities.
National Disability Authority – Ireland specific information about disabilities.
Carpe Viam– Important perspectives about technology, disability and study abroad.
Enable Ireland– Information about services in Ireland regarding disabilities.
University of Minnesota – University of Minnesota students with disabilities page.
Mobility International USA– Resources for those who identify with a disability and staff available for answering questions.
If you are planning to study abroad it is important to know your host country’s approach to gender. It is necessary to learn about attitudes toward gender in the country you are traveling. Be aware of the different viewpoints you may experience, issues that may arise and societal perceptions that culturally different countries may have. Asking yourself questions before studying in a country can be beneficial to your understanding of gender norms in your specific host country.
US Department of State– Information for women travelers abroad.
Diversityabroad.com: Women Abroad– Diversity abroad questions and tips for women before traveling abroad.
Government of Canada: Her own way: A woman’s safe guide to travel.
Religion may play a large or small part in the history of many countries. It is pertinent to understand your host country’s tolerance to religion and religious practices. Before going abroad it is valuable to research your host country’s religious background and how your faith may be perceived. Studying abroad in a country with a different system of beliefs than your own gives you an opportunity to learn about a country’s culture.
U.S. Department of State- International Religious Freedom page.
Diveristyabroad.com: Religion– Diversity abroad guides for religious diversity.
Global Religious Futures– Information about religions around the world.