Considerations Before You Go
As you prepare to study abroad it is helpful to consider how aspects of personal identity, such as, but not limited to, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability or religion may be perceived differently in a new cultural context. The customs, beliefs, laws and social practices of the host country will likely differ from the U.S., influenced by different cultural groups’ unique historical context and experiences.
Before you depart, consider not only the many ways that you might identify or define yourself, but also how these identities intersect with one another and how they might be perceived once in the host country. It is important to recognize and understand that aspects of your identity in the United States may not exist or be relevant or recognized in your host country’s context. Conversely, other aspects of your identity may be emphasized or interpreted in a way that is unfamiliar to you. For example, perhaps you will have the experience of being in either the majority or minority for the first time. Your identity informs many aspects of yourself, including external presentations such as how you talk. your mannerisms, and how you look. These may prompt stereotypes, questions, and curiosity from local people. Some of these experiences may bring about feelings of frustration or isolation, but they can also lead to wonderful new experiences, friendships, and a deeper understanding of who you are in the context of the world.