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Race and Ethnicity

As you would expect, two individuals studying abroad in the same country on the same program will not have quite the same experience. This sometimes holds especially true for students of color from historically underrepresented ethnic or racial backgrounds. Some students report feeling exhilarated by being outside the American context of race relations; others find different degrees of curiosity about their ethnic background and sometimes experience familiar or new types of separation or exclusion.

There is no reason that your racial or ethnic background should prevent you from studying abroad however, it is important to be aware of the environment you will be entering. You may find it most helpful to speak with other students of color who have studied or traveled in your host country and can provide advice. We also recommend talking to a representative of a specific program or university about the local demographic and cultural realities. For more information, please navigate through the following resources:

Platodiversity abroad

Women

Whether you have traveled extensively or this is your first time abroad, it’s important to consider your host country’s cultural attitude towards gender roles and norms, especially related to women.

Some countries have well-defined gender roles that are ingrained in local customs and/or laws, while others are more fluid with their perception of gender. It’s important to be patient with what you might see as restrictive or too progressive. Finding ways to engage with these differences and to learn from them is an important part of cross-cultural understanding.

However, depending on where you go, you may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on the culture’s attitudes toward women around gender roles and gender rights.

Everyone should consider possible issues, challenges and changes they may face while abroad regarding societal perceptions of gender and how these differences may impact your everyday life.

For more information, please navigate through the following resources. 

Women Abroad

Non-Traditional

A non-traditional student is defined as someone who identifies with any of the following:

  • did not enter post-secondary education immediately after high school;
  • has a GED instead of a high school diploma;
  • works full time while enrolled at UCO; or,
  • has dependents other than a spouse.

Participating in a study abroad program is a great resume and career builder for any student, so we certainly encourage you to study abroad. You can learn another language, develop and practice cross-cultural communication skills, and better understand the global challenges of the 21st century. However, as a non-traditional student, you may face unique challenges when it comes to studying abroad. You may be a parent, have responsibilities to other family members or have a full-time job, and taking classes when you can. Yet in spite of the obstacles you may have faced, you continue to overcome them and understand how important furthering your education is for your career.

We encourage you to consider study abroad as an experience critical to your future success, and one worth investing in.

For more information, please navigate through the following resources.

Adult Study Abroad

Gender and Sexuality

You may already identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, or you may still be exploring your identity. In either case, you will find that the social climate, laws and personal interactions of other cultures will often differ from the U.S. While researching study abroad programs and preparing for departure, it is important to reflect on the culturally based ideas and definitions of gender and sexual identity.

Consider carefully how your identity as a member, questioning member, or an ally of the LGBTQ community may influence your relationships with host nationals, your cultural adjustment, and your overall education abroad experience.

It is also important to be aware of the laws pertaining to gender and/or sexual identity in your host country as well as the popular attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer individuals.

Some students feel more accepted abroad than they do in the United States, while others feel discrimination or harassment. Whatever the general attitude is toward gender and/or sexual identity in your host country, there will be those who dissent from the general attitude one way or the other.

Try to talk with other LGBTQ students who have studied abroad in your host-country and refer to the resources below as needed.

For more information, please navigate through the following resources:

LGBTQ+ Students Abroadoutright action international

Disability and Accessibility 

Students with disabilities may find new challenges to address before and during study abroad. Laws and cultural norms that impact accessibility vary from country to country. In the U.S., wheelchair accessibility or study aids for visual impairment are examples of disability-related needs that U.S. universities address on a regular basis, and federal laws govern how these issues are handled. Depending on the program and location you choose, your own needs may present a relatively uncommon scenario for a study abroad program provider to consider in an environment governed by different disability laws and social norms.

While potentially challenging, these considerations are manageable and should not inhibit an international experience. Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a disability is strongly encouraged to study abroad, however, advance planning is essential.

For more information, please navigate through the following resources:

Students with Disability abroadMobility International USA

Religion

Religion is a salient aspect of many cultures around the world, but depending on where you go, you may find that religion plays a larger or smaller role in society compared with the U.S. You should consider not only your personal religious views and/or practices, if any, but also the dominant religion(s) in your host country and how much religion affects the culture and, sometimes, laws.

Whether you identify as a member of the dominant religion, a member of another religion, an agnostic, an atheist, or any other religious or spiritual affiliation, it will be important to understand general attitudes of religious tolerance and other religious observances in your host country.

For more information, please navigate through the following resources:

Religion AbroadInternational Religious Freedom