Students abroad face a new cultural context that includes different historical and cultural understandings of diversity and inclusion around issues like race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. Customs, beliefs, laws, facilities, and social practices are likely different than in the U.S. Students are often concerned about how they will be perceived in their host country. Sometimes students have the experience of being in the minority for the first time. Others are concerned that their race, sexual orientation, language, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. will impact their experience.
Before you depart, think about what it is going to be like to be "you" abroad, the various ways you might identify yourself, and how these identities define you in the U.S. These definitions might change in your host country, and you may encounter stereotypes, questions, and curiosity surrounding your identities. Think about your expectations versus what the reality might be abroad, and be prepared if your experiences lead to feelings of frustration, isolation, and fatigue. However, while you may face challenges, remember that being in a new cultural context is a wonderful opportunity for change and growth -- and it will provide you with a new perspective on the structure of different societies.
Below are a few things you can do to prepare yourself:
- Read about the host country’s history, culture, laws, and demographics. If reading news articles, commentaries, or blogs, consider the lens through which the information was written
- Reach out to students who have studied abroad in your host country (OIP can provide names of former study abroad students)
- Make use of online resources, (even social media which may be less "filtered" than news sources in some countries, or may include current events/stories that aren't "news-worthy") that offer advice, personal narratives, and other information
- Brown Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion strives to serve as a critical leader, resource and support in the development, implementation, assessment and accountability for effective practices and policies to promote and sustain more inclusive learning and working environments at all levels at Brown.
- Diversity Issues in Study Abroad is a collection of quotes by Brown University students from 1999-2001 about their experiences abroad. The quotes were gathered through a survey that directly addressed issues of diversity including ethnicity, heritage, sexual orientation, religion, minority/majority issues, physical appearance, and language.
- The Center for Global Education Project for Learning Abroad, Training and Outreach (PLATO) offers links to organizations, resources, and scholarships that support academic advancement for underrepresented groups.
- DiversityAbroad provides tips on how to best prepare for studying abroad; includes advice, scholarship information, student testimonials, and more.
- Institute for Study Abroad "Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students like Me" - Articles and commentary, mainly from a student perspective, about studying abroad and issues of diversity, including faith communities, first generation, LGBTQ+, racial and ethnicity, and students with special needs.