Diversity, Identity & Study Away Resources
Diversity, Identity & Study Away
Study Away will expand your worldviews by exposing you to diverse cultures, beliefs, traditions, and perspectives. Laws, customs, ideologies, physical spaces and social behavior vary across cultures and countries and as such you may experience being in the minority or in the majority for the first time. As the world does not consist of one static culture, learning and experiencing difference through study away and living within new communities provides you the opportunity to explore and gain insights into your own identity, as well as find commonalities with people and cultures who may be, at least in some ways, different from you.
Your experiences abroad may be influenced by your academic program, how much you engage with the local community, and your own identity, such as nationality, religious influences and backgrounds, racial or ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and physical accessibility.
Study Away often uniquely affects students:
Understanding and learning about your personal identities throughout study away experiences provides the potential for independent growth and self-confidence in an intercultural context. In reckoning and recognizing your identities and identity growth while participating in study away programs, you allow yourself to deeply reflect on your own core beliefs, influence of cross-cultural communities, and your conceptualization of what it means to live in a globalized world.
To learn more about how your identity may be impacted during your experience abroad, we recommend reviewing the Diversity Guide to Study Abroad as well as the resources offered here.
General Advice• Articulate your reasons for study away. It is important to explain the relevance of study away to yourself and your family. Think of how the experience can contribute to your personal, academic and professional goals.
• Use your on-campus resources. Talk with a member of the Study Away office and your advisor to help navigate the variety of programs that are the best fit for you. If you are interested in a faculty-led program, talk to the faculty leading the program to understand potential challenges or additional costs. Discuss with your advisor to be sure your chosen program fits well within your degree plan. Talk to Financial Aid to see how any scholarships may be applied for study away. Reach out to fellow students and peers who have participated on the program or study away to learn about their experiences.
• Learn about your destination. Your family may have questions about what life is like in the country where you will be living and studying, including whether it will be safe. Take some time to read and research your host city and country, especially if you do not know much about its history, geography, language, or culture. If you have other specific questions, contact your Program Coordinator.
• Plan for expenses. Read your financial agreement and program brochures to understand the program costs, inclusions, and how financial aid can be applied to Study Away. Then, visit the Financial Aid Office to discuss your particular aid package. Apply for the Study Away need-based scholarship. Make a budget for yourself. What is the cost of living in your host country? How much will you need for the remaining out-of-pocket costs such as passport, visa fees, public transportation, and personal expenses (some estimates and possible additional expenses are included on each program page)?
• Plan ahead and apply for scholarships that may be available to you through Study Away or Outside resources. If you are responsible for your flight, look into flights early on to save money.
• Bring your student ID. Many countries offer discounts on entry for students, including international students.
• Find support. Once abroad, it is important to have support networks in place. Seek out friends from your program who can share this experience with you, and, if possible, make local friends who can help you navigate your temporary home. Your on-site program staff are also always there to lend an ear or help you out when you need it.
• Seek out opportunities on your own budget and schedule. Think about finding friends who share your preferences for spending your time and money—if you’re not going to go out every weekend or budget a lot of money for independent travel or entertainment, be realistic and up front about this. Then come up with ideas for things you do want to do on your own schedule and budget. Hint: everyone loves the person who always finds the cool local hangouts or the best student deals for local cultural events!
Studying Away provides a high-impact engaged learning experience that will influence and expand your global awareness and personal perspectives. The Rinker Center for Study Away strives to create an open and supportive environment for all students by fostering communication, awareness, and transparency about accessibility-related expectations and resources. It is important for you to be aware of and to understand the cultural differences that might exist about disabilities and accommodations in order to have a successful and safe experience abroad. Think about what you may require to succeed in a study away program, whether it be medication, doctors, therapists, academic support, mobility access to classrooms or living arrangements, dietary considerations, or accessible learning materials. Students are encouraged to discuss personal accommodations or concerns first with the Student Office for Accessibility Resources (SOAR) and then with the program director or a member of the Rinker Center for Study Away and International Education before applying and departing for study away. SOAR can confidentially assist you in identifying potential accommodations, resources and support systems you may need during your study away program.
• Reach out for help and advice when needed through any of the provided resources on-site or before you depart. Contact SOAR to set up an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 864.294.2320.
• Disclose any needs to program staff early on. All information you are comfortable disclosing will remain confidential under HIPAA and does not affect your eligibility for or acceptance to a study away program. Remember, other countries may not have the same level of accommodations that you are accustomed to in the U.S. (availability of replacement parts for assisted listening devices and other necessary accessible technology, considerations for public transportation, etc.). Research your host country/countries about what accommodations are available and remain open-minded to different approaches to accommodation. We encourage you to disclose any important information – based on your comfort level – to your study away program facilitators so that they may help evaluate your accommodation and discuss any feasible accommodations, alternatives and preparations with you well in advance of the start of a program
• Learn about your host culture and how they view disability/accessibility. Though ADA laws do not necessarily apply outside of the United States, some programs may be able to make necessary accommodations with advanced requests. Read online sources and talk to other students or professionals, and attend all pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for interacting with a new environment.
• Think about how to use language around your disability/accessibility need. If you will be traveling to a country with a foreign language, look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
International Disability Laws Index
Traveling with Disabilities: State Government Travel provides tips and resources for students who travel abroad
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress, this site covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and includes summaries of policies toward individuals with disabilities.
Financial Aid for International Exchange and Disability: published by Mobility International USA. It explains how it may be possible to use supplementary security income or vocational rehabilitation funding toward study abroad.
National Clearing House on Disability & Exchange: a comprehensive one-stop resource for people with disabilities, exchange and disability staff interested in study, work, intern, volunteer, research or teach abroad programs. It includes personal stories from study abroad participants sorted by region or by disability type.
Personal stories- Stories excerpted from A World Awaits You (AWAY): a free, annual journal of stories by people with disabilities who have participated in a wide range of international exchange programs. Published by Mobility International USA.
Mobility International USA
Diversity Abroad Students with Disabilities
Tips for Traveling with Mobility Issues
Studying Abroad With A Wheelchair
Wheelchair Travel — Accessible Travel Blog
Dealing with Epilepsy Abroad
National Deaf Center: Creating Access: Study Abroad
Why Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child Should Study Abroad
TSA – Traveling with Medication
When participating in a Study Away program, you may experience or engage with cultures or people who hold different views of gender roles, or hold different cultural expectations towards gender identity. Gender roles often inform how people are expected to act, dress, and even speak to others. What might be perceived as common behavior for one’s gender identity, roles, and expectations in the U.S. may differ in other countries. It is important to educate yourself on your host country’s cultural gender roles, customs and dress, and how to address your personal views, opinions and choices while abroad. Consider how your personal beliefs align or challenge existing beliefs. How do you plan to grapple with dissonant opinions, conversations or scenarios you may be placed in or experience? By being knowledgeable of your host surroundings, you will be more comfortable and confident, which is essential for personal safety. If you identify as transgender, you may find the resources in this section in addition to those provided in the LGBTQIA+ section beneficial when considering study away. You are encouraged to discuss any concerns about gender roles and expectations with a member of the Study Away Office before departing for study away so we can help you in advance as much as possible with resources and information.
• Address questions related to your identity in your host country: What is the attitude towards gender in your host country? What are considered typical gender roles in your host society? What are the behavioral expectations for men, women and transgender individuals in your host country? How are behaviors (eye contact, smiling, hugging, etc.,) perceived in your host country? What are the gender stereotypes of your nationality/race/ethnicity in your host country? Are there differences in political and social power based on gender? How do your personal values compare with your host country’s attitudes about socially accepted gender roles?
• Talk with professionals and peers who have previously studied in your host country to learn from their experiences and understand what is considered as culturally acceptable behavior and dress. It is important to understand how you may be perceived or what may be expected of you, based on different identities you hold (or identities other perceive that you hold).
• Evaluate societal differences in communication. Think about body language, explicit and implicit communication and how you may be perceived in the foreign cultural context. This applies to greetings, friendships, and dating relationships.
• Pay attention to your surroundings. Prioritize your safety and make sure someone knows your travel plans and dates. Practice safe behaviors in regards to alcohol and never walk alone. If you ever feel unsafe, call the proper authorities and go to a public area.
Women Travelers: information from the U.S. State Government for women traveling abroad
Diversity Abroad: Women Abroad: information for women travelers with access to individual stories
Solo Woman Traveler: information for women travelers, solo travel, and more.
Sexual Harassment and Prevention in College Students Studying Abroad: article on sexual harassment while studying abroad, including women's experiences, causes and ways to prevent harassment.
Studyabroad.com – Study Abroad Safety Tips for Female Students
Go Girl! The Black Woman's Book of Travel and Adventure. 1997. Elaine Lee. 8th Mountain Press.
Nothing to Declare. 1991. Mary Morris, Penguin Books.
Transitions Abroad: Woman Travel Portal
Clothing Advice for women based on country
Culture Shock! A series of books to help understand Gender issues in your host country.
“Identity sexual and gender expression abroad” an essay by CIEE
Ni él, ni ella: Being Nonbinary in Spain
If you identify with the LGBT+ community, studying abroad may bring up questions about choosing a program and planning for abroad. Just as in the United States, other countries have their own legislations and views of LGBTQIA+ matters. Some countries may be more accepting than the U.S., while other countries – due to religion, customs or beliefs – may make you feel unable to express your identity. Remember, U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of their host country. One way to prepare yourself is to seek out a support network/services in-country during your study away experience. You are encouraged to research and prepare for your study away experiences to ensure you understand the cultural norms and LGBTQIA+ rights in your host country.
Coming out and addressing your own identity is a highly personal experience. For students who have not yet come out, or who are unsure of their own sexual orientation or gender identity, the Center for Inclusive Communities, Out at Furman, and the Study Away Office are safe spaces and are here to support you as you discover and learn about yourself.
• Research the laws regarding LGBTQIA+ rights and identities in your host country. What are the norms for dating and friendships? How are LGBTQIA+ people treated in your host country? How does your country legally address the LGBT+ community? Are LGBT+ people being targeted in the country/community? What are the laws vs. what is the culture of the country? What are the society’s perceptions and expectations for men, women and transgender individuals in your host country?
• Learn about the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community in your host country. How do the local individuals in your host country who identify as LGBTQIA+ represent themselves in society? What types of opportunities are there to engage with local LGBT+ communities? How are behaviors (eye contact, smiling, hugging, etc.) perceived in your host country? Will you be living with a host family that is accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals? Do you want to come out (maybe again) to your study away peers, providers, or family?
• Understand the resources provided for the LGBTQIA+ community in your host country. Is there LGBT+ friendly housing/provisions for students with your program? Some LGBT+ identifying people have described studying away as a second coming out. Before you study abroad, think about how you would address your identity in a new location. Try to find a support network within your country. Remember to put your safety first and reach out to your program staff immediately if you experience any problems.
LGBT Rights by Country or Territory
7 Tips for Coming Out to Your Host Family
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) maintains country specific information related to legal rights and social climate.
LGBT Student Travelers the Department of State Students Abroad
The National Center for Transgender Equality maintains information and resources for transgender travelers.
TSA Information for Transgender Passengers
Sexual Orientation Abroad Diversity Abroad offers tips, student profiles, and information about diversity and inclusion overseas.
Study Abroad Interactive Map provides an interactive map of countries with information on laws and history
GlobalGayz provides stories, news articles and reports, and photos of over 190 countries
NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group
Pride Foundation: a variety of scholarships for LGBTQ students and students of LGBTQ parents
9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT
How Gay Travel is Different (And Why it Matters)Pride Foundation: a variety of scholarships for LGBTQ students and students of LGBTQ parents
College Consensus: a guide with helpful links and information for LGBT students
Before deciding to study away, it is important to understand global perceptions and attitudes around race/ethnicity may differ greatly across countries. Students of color often use the practice of code-switching to be able to better navigate their environments, especially students in predominantly white spaces and institutions. During study abroad experiences, you may feel pressure to act in a certain manner to meet the perception of socially acceptable standards of behavior. Study away is your experience as a student, it is important to reflect on your own needs during this time. Remember to utilize your support network our office, on-site advisers/faculty, family/friends, etc.) as they are there to help you learn, experience, and share culture in order to bridge gaps and correct misunderstandings. What can you learn, teach and share with the individuals of your host country or the other members of your study away group? While studying away, you may encounter people who make assumptions about you from your physical appearance. Students often report varied emotions about being labeled as a foreigner or solely American. People may become attracted to your based on use of a foreign language/international accent, and try to touch your hair or skin. Some people may stare or ask personal and uncomfortable questions about your heritage and features, especially in regions with decreased engagement with varied races or ethnicities. Though it is important to engage with your host country, your first priority is your safety. If you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, it is best to reach out to a program leader or to remove yourself from the situation.
• Research your host country and cities to understand common perceptions and stereotypes towards race and ethnicity. When you study away, you may become part of a minority. If you are part of an ethnic minority here in the US, in your host country, you may be part of the majority, or vice versa. It is also important to understand the history of race and racial tension within the host country and the conditions or experiences of those who live within the country, and those who have previously studied or worked there. Is there racial or ethnic discrimination in your host country? Review a wide range of study away and country guidebooks to avoid one-narrative experiences. Review the readings here for Study Away recommended resources. Note this is not a complete list of all the literature and information available to you. Research some options independently or talk with a Study Away Adviser for other materials.
• Know the possible challenges and how to address racism and other discriminatory behaviors. “Due to media underrepresentation of people of color, it is not uncommon to encounter people who assume that American = white” (DiversityAbroad). Students of color may be subjected to racism, colorism and misidentification. You may feel conflicted over understanding or misunderstanding your alignment of known versus perceived expressions of your citizenship or race identities by the host community, while simultaneously trying to find a connection with your fellow study away students. What are your on-site resources for help, advice and support. If you have experienced discrimination, what are the tools who have learned if you encounter racism in your host country?
Understand the influence of global media. United States politics and news is often heavily known throughout the world. Students, regardless of nationality, may be asked consistently on their perceptions of the United States government, social relations and politics during their time abroad. Reflect on how you should/would like to respond in different situations. How do you view yourself with your friends? At Furman? In your Community? As your nationality? If you are an international student, how may your home country be regarded in your host country? You may be asked for comparisons between your host country, your home country, and your experience within the United States.
• Reach out to your resources before you go. Talk to a counselor or a member of Furman’s Center for Inclusive Communities. Talk with fellow students who have studied abroad of their experiences, challenges and advice. Reach out to friends or family who can help support you during your study away program. Parents and guardians who have any concerns should review the Parent’s Guide or contact a member of the Study Away Office with their questions or concerns.
PLATO: Project for Learning Abroad, Training & Outreach: a project addressing some of the issues and challenges ethnicity may play in the study abroad experience for underrepresented students. The site links to additional information, resources and scholarships and includes the top-10 reasons for students from African American, Hispanic American, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander backgrounds to study abroad.
Diversity Abroad: dedicated to helping students of color study abroad. They have advice for students, scholarship information, country specific guides and alumni stories about their experiences, challenges and impact.
AllAbroad.us: advocating for increased participation and diversity in study abroad. There are sections for students, parents and faculty/staff. See the "Mentor" section with video clips of mentors answering questions about study abroad.
“Race Abroad” glimpse study abroad acclimation guide
8 Signs You’re a Black (American) Student Traveling Abroad
Managing Black Hair While Studying Abroad
Traveling While Black
Traveling While Latino
7 Things that only Latino Travelers Understand
Casual Racism in Travel
Traveling while Asian
TWA: Traveling while Asian
Traveling While Asian, Queer, And Tattooed: WHICH IS WORSE?
Traveling as a Person of Color Is Stressful
Traveling while Arab
Traveling While Sikh
Neither Here Nor There: The Reality of Heritage Study Abroad
Seeking your roots
“Black and Latinx Student’s Guide to Global Programs” by Diversity Abroad
If you are a first generation student adding study away your four-year pathway, you are in a unique position of possibly being the first person to study away in your family. You may also have different obstacles and specific concerns relating to finances, support systems, and understanding study away responsibilities. Studying Away provides opportunities to make new connections, domestically and abroad. As study away is a unique experience and you may have many questions, our office is here to help you prepare for the process and expectations involved in order to ensure that you are able to take full advantage of this experience.
• Connect with your family. It is important to explain the relevance of study away to your family who may be unfamiliar with it or its impact. You may have family who have had cultural international or domestic experiences outside of traditional university study away. What was their experience? How do they view study away? Parents/guardians may utilize our Study Away Parent’s page and Study Away Program page if they need more information on programs, experiences or ways to support you.
Diversity Abroad provides tips for students on how to best prepare for studying abroad; includes advice, scholarship information, student testimonials, and more.
The First Generation Student’s Study Abroad Guide by GoAbroad
IFSA Unpacked is a collection of students’ study abroad stories and resources for prospective study abroad students
How to Deal with Unsupportive Friends and Family
A Different Experience: Supporting First Generation College Students in Education Abroad
Ask a First Generation Student: Diversity and Study Abroad
Religion and culture are often intertwined with each other and study away experiences provide a unique perspective to explore world religions and practices as well as your own spirituality. Being exposed to new beliefs can help you learn and reflect on your own beliefs. Learn about the diversity of your host country’s religions and practices and how they are understood across regions before you depart to better navigate your experience. Discuss any concerns with your advisor, the Study Away Office, the Office of Spiritual Life, and the Center for Inclusive Communities. If you ever feel uncomfortable while abroad, contact your on-site program advisor and openly discuss possible ways of addressing and navigating the discomfort.
• Research your host countries practiced religions and religious history. Will you be in the religious majority or minority? Are there rules against public symbols or worship? What is the tolerance of the host country towards your religion? What are their religious holidays or celebrations?
• Plan how to fit your religion into your experience. If you are planning to practice, are there places of worship available to you and where are they? If there is no place, how would you prepare to practice? If you have a religious dietary restriction, how can this be accommodated in your host country?
• Learn about other practiced religions. What are the other practiced religions? If you plan on visiting a place of worship as part of your study away program, what are any aspects you should be aware of in advance such as special dress codes? How can you learn more and engaged with diverse religious communities within your host country?
Diversity Abroad provides tips for students on how to best prepare for studying abroad; includes advice, scholarship information, student testimonials, and more.
Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project lets you explore the rapidly changing religious profile of the world.
BBC Religion and Ethics provides news and commentary on religion worldwide.
The Pluralism Project: The Pluralism Project at Harvard University seeks to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity.
U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Information: The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country.
Kosher Restaurants & Stores: Directory of over 3,410 kosher restaurants and stores in over 70 countries.
Delegation of Jewish American Students: The mission of DoJAS is to provide American Jewish students studying abroad the resources, tools, and connections they need to meaningfully engage with the Jewish community and their Jewish identity.
Islamic Finder: Directory of prayer times, Islamic organizations, and mosques worldwide.
NPR Islam on the Internet: List of organizations and online resources worldwide.
Halal Restaurants & Stores: Directory of halal restaurants and stores worldwide.
All Hindu Temples: Hindu temple directory in more than 50 countries.
World Buddhist Directory: Worldwide searchable database of Buddhist organizations.
Buddhist Centers and Organizations: List of Buddhist communities in 66 countries.