Identity + Inclusion

Identities, Discrimination and Culture

Identity and forms of discrimination such as racism and sexism take different forms in different cultures. While abroad you may experience racism and discrimination in very different ways than you have experienced at home and this can often feel like the discrimination is worse than back home. Norms around gender and sexuality vary a lot from country to country. Sometimes the places with extreme differences (being a woman in Saudi Arabia) are easier to handle than more subtle differences (sexism in Italy). You may find that certain aspects of your identity become stronger while abroad (e.g. religious affiliation, national identity) while others may be diminished.

We recognize that different aspects of your identity may impact your study abroad experience and that the education abroad experience will differ for every student. Each student faces different barriers and unique challenges. Furthermore, how you identify in the United States may not be how you choose to identify abroad, and may not be how you are identified by your host culture. We encourage all students to reflect on the different aspects of their identity and consider how they may play a role in their study abroad experience.

Before you go, research your destination!

  • Research your host country's history, culture, laws, and demographics. You can also utilize online resources, including social media, that offer advice, personal narratives, and other information. Be sure to evaluate all of your resources carefully.
  • What groups in the country have been discriminated against and how?
  • How are religion, social class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability are viewed in the local culture?
  • What is the country's relationship with the United States (historically and today)?

Discussion Questions - Food for thought and discussion with your friends, family and classmates:

  • Different conceptions (or lack thereof) of political correctness
  • Who can share an example of a time when they felt they needed to "cover" or hide an aspect of their identity? Why
  • What are your initial impressions of the host culture and where did these impressions come from?
  • How do you think you will be perceived by your host culture and why?
  • Discrimination and racism exist everywhere – what is your plan of action if you or one of your peers are faced with racism or discrimination?
  • What cultural norms exist in your community (dress, social norms, etc.) that may not exist in your host culture? How will you manage these differences?
  • What is discrimination? What is just curiosity?
Photo Credit: I. Karnik, Aerospace Engineering, Engineering in Netherlands - Delft

Student Stories & Additional Resources:

Office of Inclusion & Intercultural Relations

The Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations (OIIR) provides transformative learning experiences that result in an appreciation for diversity and cross-cultural engagement.

Diversity Abroad Network

Diversity Abroad connects diverse and underrepresented students and graduates to international education and career opportunities that will prepare them for leadership in an interconnected world.

A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me

The Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University has compiled articles and commentary, mainly from a student perspective, about studying abroad and topics of diversity, including faith communities, first generation, LGBTQ+, race and ethnicity, and students with visible and non-visible disabilities.

GoAbroad's Ebook Library has many articles with travel tips and tales from various student identity perspectives including LGBTQ, LatinX, and students with disabilities.