When traveling abroad, students may encounter varying attitudes and beliefs around diversity issues. Students in a majority population in the U.S. may suddenly find themselves in the minority in their new host culture, and vice versa. Understanding how identity is perceived around the world and how those perceptions can affect study abroad experiences can go a long way in helping students find a program that is a good personal fit.
Identity Based Resources
The Office of Education Abroad (OEA) encourages students to do some personal research around the topics of diversity and identity as part of the study abroad planning process. Some general resources students may find useful include the following:
- Diversity Abroad
- UNC Charlotte Office of Identity, Equity and Engagement
- Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach
RACE & ETHNICITY
Racial and ethnic perceptions and experiences vary by culture and country. The racial and ethnic make up of your host country may be very different from what you are used to and your own race or ethnicity may be categorized and treated differently as a result. Just like life in the United States, students may encounter some discrimination during their experiences abroad. It is important to do your research to prepare for experiences that can be both challenging and rewarding. It helps you to be aware of the variety of views and perspectives that could be positive, negative, and everything in between.
- Which ethnic and racial groups do I identify with and how are they perceived in my host country?
- What are the dominant racial and ethnic groups in my host country? Will I be in the majority or minority? How will this affect how I am treated?
- What is the history of the host country in regards to race and ethnicity? How does it currently affect the climate in the host country today?
- How might other parts of my identity in addition to my race and ethnicity affect my experience abroad?
Laws, customs, social norms, expectations, and attitudes regarding sexual orientations can vary greatly in different countries, cultures, and communities. It is important to do your research prior to your departure on these dynamics in your host country to stay safe and foster an enriching cultural experience. Studying abroad often leads to great opportunities for personal growth. Sexual orientation can be a fluid concept that may be welcomed or challenged depending on the host culture. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer it is not only important to do your research but to make the best decisions for yourself.
- How visible and large is the GLBTQAI+ community in my host country?
- What are the past and current laws and cultural attitudes towards my sexual identity in my host culture ?
- Is it safe to be out in the host country and culture? What are my safety and health needs?
- Are their GLBTQAI+ resources and organizations in my host university and/or host city?
- What are my housing options? Will they meet my needs?
- International Lesbian and Gay Association: The Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Map of World Laws
- International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
- National Center for Transgender Equality - Air Travel Tips for Transgender People
- GoAbroad: Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales - LGBTQ Traveler's Perspectives
Gender roles can differ from country to country and culture to culture. Traditional gender roles often inform the way a specific gender is expected to act, dress, speak, and navigate with the social and cultural norms of a culture. Your gender may have an impact on who and how you are able to interact with others in your host country and culture. There may also be a difference in the way you are treated as a foreigner rather than a local person of the same gender. Thus it is important for both men and women to research the laws, customs, societal norms of gender roles and dynamics in your host country. It is also important to observe social cues from the local people in your host country.
- What are the laws, customs, and societal norms of my gender in my host country?
- What are the attitudes and expectations for women, men and transgender people in my host culture?
- Do cultural dynamics favor and give a certain gender more privilege? How could that affect how I am perceived and treated abroad?
- Are there any safety concerns and/or issues related to my gender that I need to be aware of?
As a first generation college student you may be focusing on what it takes to be successful and graduate. Studying Abroad may not have even crossed your mind and may not have been a part of your initial plan. However, studying abroad has so many benefits that often help you not only reach your goal of graduation but will make you a stronger candidate as you begin your career.
- Have I spoken to a study abroad advisor, my academic advisor and someone in financial aid to learn what my options are?
- Have a talked to any of my peers about their study abroad experiences?
- Have I talked to my support system of families and/or friends about my plans to study abroad?
- Have I inquired about financial resources, scholarships and grants?
- Will the financial cost of a program influence the options that you consider?
- How will I budget for my study abroad experience?
- Is the cost of living higher or lower at my host institution and host culture?
RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
The freedom of religious and spiritual practices can vary depending on the host culture. Thus it is important to do your research and respect the religious and spiritual beliefs of your host country. If the religion and/or spiritual beliefs differ from your own, it is important to keep an open mind. Not only does it allow for greater understanding of the culture, it also gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own religious and or spiritual beliefs.
- What are the dominate religions and/or spiritual practices in my host country?
- How do people in the host culture view other religions?
- Is my religion legal and practiced in my host country? Do I have any concerns about my religion?
- Do I plan to practice my religion or spiritual practice in the host country? How might I practice it?
- Are there resources or organizations for my religion or spiritual practice in my host country?
MOBILITY & ACCESSIBILITY
Students who need disability access can study abroad. If you need disability access and/or accommodations and are planning to study abroad, we encourage you to contact both the Study Abroad Office and the Disability Resource Office. Schedule meetings with an advisor or access consultants as soon as possible for assistance and advice about participation on a study abroad program. Though accessibility and accommodations for people with disabilities vary from country to country, many accommodations can be arranged on a case-by-case basis, especially if those accommodations are disclosed early in the process.
- What are the perceptions of people with disabilities and mental health conditions in the host culture?
- Am I comfortable disclosing/ discussing my disability or mental health access needs?
- What challenges might I face during the entire study abroad process? How will I prepare and overcome them?
- What resources and accommodations do I need for my courses and in my living space?
- Does the location and culture of the study abroad program that I am considering provide the resources and support that I need?
Non-traditional students often have different responsibilities such as those tied to families, professions, and other obligations at home that do not affect many " traditional students" in the same way. Thus it is important to take these factors into consideration when studying abroad. Many traditional students have various life experiences that often allow for deeper cultural exploration and a variety of perspectives that can impact their own and other participants' study abroad experiences.
- Think about what makes you a non-traditional student, as it can vary greatly. What resources does the host institution and host culture have to support your needs?
- Do I have other responsibilities with family, home, or professional obligations that will affect the study abroad program selection and length?
- Will there be any other participants that I can relate to on the program? Are there opportunities to connect with students and others from the host culture that I can relate or have more in common with?
- What can I learn from my fellow participants and those from host culture who I may not relate to immediately?
- What type of housing accommodations would you prefer? Are those options available in the programs you are considering?
- How will this study abroad experience relate to and enhance my academic, personal and career goals?
MILITARY & VETERANS
Military, veteran and military-affiliated students often participate in study abroad programs to gain further global experiences. Military and veteran students are often able to gain new perspectives as they study in a different culture and country. These study abroad experiences can often enhance and compliment the international experience gained through the military.
- How is the military viewed in my host country? How will that affect my experience as I learn more about the people and the culture of the host country?
- What unique perspectives and previous global experience can I contribute to my study abroad experiences? What new skills do I want to gain while abroad?
- What military assistance and benefits can I use towards my study abroad program? Have I talked to the Military & Veteran Office and Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid on how they can be used?
- What military/work, family and/or home, responsibilities do I need to take into consideration when choosing a program?
- How might other parts of my identity in addition to my military affiliation affect my experience abroad?
As an international degree seeking student you are already studying abroad here at UNC Charlotte. However, you may still want to study abroad in another country while earning your degree. We highly encourage you to do so. There are many programs that you can participate in. Being of a different nationality and visa status may impact where you study abroad and the documentation you need to study in your host institution. Thus it is important to begin the process early and work with our office and the Office of International Programs. Your success in studying here in the United States as an international student gives you a unique perspective, and studying abroad yet again will further enhance your cultural understanding and cross cultural communication.
- What is the relationship between your home country and your host country?
- Have you researched the visa requirements between your home country and your host country?
- Have you contacted the Office of International Students to let them know about your plans to study abroad? Have you discussed any requirements that need to be done to stay in compliance with your student visa?
- What immigration documents do I need to carry with me?
Student athletes can and do participate in study abroad programs to gain global experiences. Study abroad provides student athletes the opportunity to make the world their classroom and expand their horizons beyond the playing field.
- Have you spoken to your coaches and teammates about your interest in study abroad?
- Have you thought about the best time to study abroad based on your training and playing schedule? Do you have any obligations in the pre-season or additional tournaments in the post-season? Are there team commitments and training scheduled in the off-season?
- Have you thought about how you can maintain your training to stay in good physical condition for the duration of your study abroad experience? Speak with your program director about what training and athletic facilities you have access to in the host community.
- Have you considered nutrition based on the culture of your host country? Depending on your host country and region, your eating pattern may not be the same as in the U.S.
- To make sure that you stay in good standing with NCAA, check in with your coaches and ASPSA about rules regarding monetary compensation, accepting “gifts,” coaching, competing in events not sanctioned by the NCAA, etc.