Diversity and Identity Abroad

The Study Abroad Programs Office encourages all students to participate in transformational, international experiences. To assist with preparations, below are some resources and things to consider. We also welcome students to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss any concerns or questions about identity and diversity abroad, as the socio-cultural context of the host country might differ from that of the United States.
 
Have questions about a specific country?
Diversity Abroad offers Country Climate Notes for several popular study abroad destinations. Fill out this quick interest survey to request information about a specific country.

Things to Consider:

  • Define your goals. This is a key step in determining which program will work best for your academic and professional goals as well as convincing family members about the value of study abroad. Do you want to learn a new language? Participate in a practicum or internship related to your future career?
  • Meet with your advisors and ask questions. Working with your academic advisor can help ensure that you are staying on track academically and help you navigate and strategize about any prerequisites for the study abroad courses. Your program’s study abroad advisor can go over all of the details of the program, finances, billing, and other elements of the program.
  • Do your research. Research the program and the destination on your own as well! This may include speaking with other students and faculty leaders or looking up information online or in books. Knowing more about the destinations can help you narrow down your choices to find the best fit for you. 
  • Plan for expenses. The earlier you begin to plan how to finance your program, the better. The program fee and some other costs, such as the international flight and travel documents, are due over the course of the previous term(s) and before financial aid is disbursed. Some external scholarships have application deadlines several months in advance, and you do not want to miss out on those opportunities. The Money Education Center (http://money.tamu.edu/) is a great place to start as you work on budgeting for study abroad and planning out scholarships.
  • Establish a support network. Having a network of friends, families, peers, mentors, or other individuals who support your decision to go abroad can help you feel more comfortable about stepping out of your comfort zone and can encourage you to make the most of your experience.

Web Resources

  • Diversity Abroad Network – is the leading international organization which connects diverse students, recent graduates and young professionals with international study, intern, teach, volunteer, degree and job opportunities. Its website provides study abroad tips, scholarship opportunities, and resources for first generation students studying abroad. 
  • Money Education Center – provides resources and information regarding finances and budgeting to Texas A&M students 
  • I’m First!provides blog posts by first generation students about their study abroad experiences 
  • IFSA-Butler Unpacked – provides a study abroad blog featuring posts written by students from diverse backgrounds, including first generation students 
  • GoAbroad Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales – provides ebooks that address specific topics:

Things to Consider

  • Research the cultural norms of your destination. Male, female, and non-binary identifying students should all take the time to research the cultural norms and behaviors related to gender issues of their intended destination prior to arrival. If ever in doubt, students should refer to locals around them for a clue on how to behave, dress, speak, or eat in line with local customs.
  • Be aware that clothing matters. Students of all genders should take care to research the attire of their gender in the destination because many cultures are far more conservative that the U.S. Therefore, you will likely need to pack longer pants, shirts with higher necklines, and skirts (for women), and shorts may not be appropriate wear for men or women. Women might need to pack a light scarf to cover their hair or shoulders when visiting religious sites. In some cultures, people tend to dress “fancier” than we might be used to for day-to-day or classes. Pay attention to locals around you to guide your choices once you are in-country.
  • Put safety first. Always travel in groups of at least two, especially when you are unfamiliar with the area. Always be aware of your surroundings, and trust your gut! If a situation or a person is making you feel unsafe, remove yourself if possible. You might receive persistent attention from a person interested in you. Do not be afraid of saying no as many times as possible. Be assertive and firm.
  • Be careful with alcohol. Keep in mind that the consumption of alcohol has different cultural implications depending on where you are. Some cultures perceive women who drink as “loose” or it is a norm that women do not drink certain kinds of alcohol or frequent some establishments. Do your research ahead of time to learn what is appropriate.
  • Be mindful of differing opinions on sexual relations. Decide ahead of time whether you intend to be sexually active while abroad. Research to determine if pre-martial sexual encounters are legal and/or culturally permitted in your destination. Also, learn about the availability of contraception abroad. Some countries might not have your preferred method available so you should pack some in your luggage.
  • Build a support network and identify allies. Especially if you are in a destination where harassment and discrimination against women is common, having a support network can be a huge asset.
 

Web Resources

  • Women’s Resource Center – provides support and resources for Aggie women
  • Diversity Abroad – is the leading international organization which connects diverse students, recent graduates and young professionals with international study, intern, teach, volunteer, degree and job opportunities. Its website provides study abroad tips, scholarship opportunities, and resources for women travelling abroad. 
  • GoAbroad – provides information, stories, and advice for women in travel
  • U.S. Department of State – provides information for Women Travelers
  • Center for Global Education –provides information about sexual harassment and prevention in college students studying abroad
  • Brown University – provides tips and things to consider for men & women abroad 
  • Unpacked by IFSA Butlerprovides student articles about gender issues abroad
  • The Blonde Abroad – provides tips for packing when travelling to conservative destinations

Things to consider:

  • Local attitudes in your host country can heavily influence the abroad experience for you, as an LGBTQ student. It’s helpful to approach expressing your sexual and gender identity as just another cross-cultural challenge.
  • Before you leave the U.S., learn as much as possible about the culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation.
  • Before you go abroad, find out what kinds of legal rights LGBTQ persons have in your host country.
  • Once abroad, connect with local support networks and LGBTQ communities to help ease your transition and provide a base to explore your sexual identity in the host culture.
 

Web Resources:

  • Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center - A resource and referral center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Aggies and their straight supporters. 
  • Diversity Abroad - Study abroad tips and resources for LGBTQ students - including a comprehensive LGBTQ Student Guide with country specific information. 
  • International GLBT Association - ILGA has country guides and an interactive map with information about how LGBTQ issues are addressed in specific countries. 
  • U.S. Department of State LGBTI Travel Information - Recommendations for LGBTQ travelers. 
  • NAFSA Rainbow SIG - This organization provides a scholarship made possible by a group of international education professionals who are committed to advocating on behalf of LGBTQ students. 
  • International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association - Features an interactive map providing country-specific profiles about laws and the availability of local advocacy, support resources for LGBTQIA communities.

Things to Consider:

  • Research the historical and cultural climate of your destination. Remember that cultural norms vary by destination. Researching the local culture and history can provide valuable insights into what to expect. As an example, locals may engage you in political discussions in some countries because politics is a less ‘taboo’ topic to bring up with strangers than in the U.S.
  • Be aware that locals may make assumptions based on physical appearance. In some destinations, locals assume that Americans are white, and therefore may incorrectly identify your ethnicity based solely on your physical appearance. For example, people in Spanish-speaking countries may assume that Latinx students speak Spanish fluently.
  • Build a support network. Before and while abroad, identify individuals that you can talk to about your experiences abroad. This may include your peers, faculty member, onsite staff, or friends and family in the U.S. Writing a journal or blog may also be helpful in sharing your story.
  • Bring your ethnic beauty products with you. These items, such as hair care products or specific make-up shades, may be difficult to find abroad unless you are travelling to a destination that aligns with your ethnic identity. If you are African-American, for example, you will likely find comparable hair products in Tanzania but not in Hong Kong.
  • Be sure to enjoy your time abroad! We encourage you to learn about the local culture and race relations, but do not let that keep you from enjoying the experience. Be prepared for what you may encounter, but don't go abroad expecting racism or discrimination


Web Resources:

Things to consider:

  • Research the dominant religion for the host destinations and the local attitudes for other religions. In some countries, religious liberty might be different from in the United States.
  • Reflect on your typical spiritual practices and determine 1) which practices you accept foregoing based on the tolerance and/or lack of resources in the host country and 2) which practices you wish to continue.
  • Explore available spiritual community resources and support networks in your host destinations (e.g., places to worship and so forth).
  • Verify whether or not it is safe to wear certain religious symbols or clothing, it is acceptable to debate opposing religious views, and there are etiquettes to observe in places of worship.
  • Verify the availability of foods to accommodate religious dietary needs.
  • Be open to learning something new and understanding the cultural norms of the host country even if you might not agree with them.


Website resources:

  • Diversity Abroad – is the leading international organization which connects diverse students, recent graduates and young professionals with international study, intern, teach, volunteer, degree and job opportunities. Its website provides study abroad tips, scholarship opportunities, and resources for students.
  • BBC Religion and Ethics – provide resources on different world religions and news on current events.
  • The Pluralism Project –this site is managed by Harvard University, which is known for its interfaith research and engaging students studying religious diversity.
  • PEW – Templeton Global Religious Futures Project – this site offers religious demography and survey results for most countries worldwide.

Things to consider:

  • Research the program destinations and ask questions to understand the program, cultural norms, and resources available in your destination country (e.g., classroom accessibility, academic services, group meals, transportation, required and alternate excursions, housing options, and health care services).  
  • Verify quarantine regulations, if planning to travel with a service animal or emotional support animal. To verify related requirements, consult the United States Department of Agriculture Travel with a Pet (policies for entering a foreign country and returning to the U.S.), consult the U.S. Department of State Pet and International Travel, and verify specific airline regulations based on your flight itinerary.
  • Disclose your disability and medical condition to the Study Abroad Programs Office and Disability Services to initiate the process of securing reasonable accommodations. Early disclosure is strongly encouraged, as it may take 4 to 6 months to finalize arrangements.
  • Plan ahead. Shipment of special supplies, quarantine of service animals, immunizations, travel documents, and other necessary preparations will take time to complete. 
  • Verify with your doctor if your prescription medication is legal in the host country and how to obtain enough supplies for the duration of your stay.
  • Be flexible. Some countries do not have an equivalent of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, the availability of disability accommodations and program adjustments are determined based on the following information: an assessment of the participant’s needs by an Access Coordinator in the Department of Disability Services, examination of the program itinerary with the study abroad advisor/trip leader and on-site staff, and exploration of available resources in the participant’s host destinations.  For more information about the request for accommodation process, visit http://disability.tamu.edu/requestingaccommodations.
 

 
Web Resources:

  • Texas A&M Department of Disability Services – campus office for academic accommodation coordination, evaluation referral, and disability-related information.
  • Mobility International USA – global non-profit committed to advancing disability rights and leadership. Its website and staff provide guidance related to international exchanges, travel preparations, and program development. The website provides helpful tip sheets:
  • Diversity Abroad – is the leading international organization which connects diverse students, recent graduates and young professionals with international study, intern, teach, volunteer, degree and job opportunities. Its website provides study abroad tips, scholarship opportunities, and resources for students with disabilities.
  • U.S. Department of State Traveling with Disabilities – provides recommendations for travelers with disabilities.
  • Transportation Security Administration – provides details on available airport assistance and guidelines on traveling for those with disabilities, service dogs and animals, or medical conditions.
  • Abroad with Disabilities – is a nonprofit committed to promoting individuals with disabilities to travel abroad. Its website provides scholarship opportunities and preparation resources. 
  • International Narcotics Control Board – provides country-specific guidelines on medications and drug regulations.
  • Curb Free with Cory Lee – provides travelling experiences from the perspective of a wheelchair user, as well as tips/tricks for successfully travelling to various places with a wheelchair.
  • The Global Access Files –provides guides for advising students with disabilities and ways to make international education more inclusive.
  • Abroad with Disabilities – provides resources about international travel with disabilities and scholarship opportunities.
General Resources
The following websites provide resources that apply across different diverse identities.

Diversity Abroad – this national organization provides information and resources for diverse students studying abroad.  
IES Abroadthis study abroad provider’s site includes country-specific resources for diverse students. They also feature a Student Blog site, where posts can be filtered to include diversity-focused posts.
 
SIT this study abroad provider features articles and information by country.
 
Unpacked – IFSA Butler this is a student-driven blog site that focuses specifically on diverse students abroad.
 
U.S. Department of State – Travelers with Special Considerations – provides  information specific to travelers of certain identities (religion, ability, LGBTI, and women).
 
GoAbroad.comprovides free downloadable ebooks tailored to specific identity groups and interests.

U.S. Department of State International Travel - provides country-specific information and safety guidelines.

Annual Report on Hate Crimes - OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) publishes hate crime reports about participating states and countries.