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Identity Abroad

The Office Global Engagement is committed to serving the many and varied diverse student populations. As you explore your study abroad options, you may want to consider all aspects of your identity and how these could play a role in your experience abroad. We encourage you to do some research into the culture, attitudes and beliefs, customs, and more on a host country before selecting a program. Below are examples of how different identities may be impacted while abroad, various resources, as well as questions or topics to consider before studying abroad. We are continuously adding identity groups and resources to this page - if you feel your identity is not represented here, please let us know!

Ethnicity and Race Abroad

Students of all ethnicities and races can and do study abroad! Like many things, ethnic and racial experiences vary by culture. While you are abroad, you may be part of a minority or majority group for the first time in your life or have to think about your ethnic or racial identity in a different way. Due to cultural differences, you could encounter both positive and negative assumptions, stereotypes, and/or opinions from others you may have not previously experienced.

Being aware of the varying perspectives toward ethnic and racial identities around the world can help you be ready for potential situations you may encounter when going abroad. Researching your host country to determine the attitudes and beliefs around ethnic and racial identities, the ethnic and racial composition, and the history of ethnic and racial relations can help you feel better prepared for your upcoming experience abroad. DACA students: Travel authorization called advance parole might be possible for individuals with an approved grant of DACA. However, reentry to the United States can never be guaranteed, and we recommend that DACA students seek the advice of an immigration attorney to weigh this risk before departing the United States on a study abroad program.

Questions to consider:

  • What are the dominant ethnic and racial groups in your host country? Will you be in the majority or minority? Will this affect how you are treated? Is this your first time being in a majority or minority group? Are you prepared to handle any potential impact this may have on you?
  • With which ethnic and racial groups do you identify? How are they perceived in your host country?
  • How will you feel if you are the only student of your race on a program?
  • Where do people of your race or ethnicity fit into your host country’s society? What are some common perceptions and stereotypes about your ethnicity or race in your host country? Are you likely to be a target of racism/classism? How will you react if you encounter racism or other discriminatory behavior? Who can you contact if you do?
  • In your host country are there laws governing ethnic and racial relations? What, if any, legal protections are offered to ethnic and racial minorities?
  • What is the history of ethnic or racial tension in your host country? Is the situation currently hostile to members of a minority race, majority race, or particular ethnicity?


LGBTQ+ Students Abroad

Yes, students who identify as LGBTQIA+ can and do study abroad! Before going abroad, it is important to note every country has different laws, policies, and cultural attitudes toward people who identify as or are perceived to be, LGBTQIA+. Be sure to take this into account when selecting a study abroad location and program so that you can have a positive, safe, and rewarding experience. We recommend researching program locations to get a feel for what life will be like in this country. Learning about the culture, attitudes, and beliefs around the LBGTQIA+ community can help you feel better prepared for your upcoming experience abroad.

For transgender, non-binary, and/or gender non-conforming students: Be sure to review your travel documents, passport, state ID, and any other forms of identification. These must match in both name and gender. If your state ID does not accurately reflect your identity, you may be able to change it.  For information on how to change your gender marker to male or female, check out the Illinois Driver’s License FAQ. For information on updating your passport to accurately reflect your identity, check out Before you Travel on the LGBTI Travelers FAQ provided by the U.S. Department of State.

Questions to consider:

  • How open are you now, or are you willing to be, about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
  • Is it safe for you to be out while abroad? If you choose a program location where you will need to hide your identity for legal or cultural reasons, how will this impact you and your overall study abroad experience?
  • What are the laws regarding identity and travel documentation? If you travel outside your host country, are you prepared to handle changes in attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community? Is it legal to be out and open in these countries?
  • What type of housing options are available? If you live with a host family, can you request a family that is known to be supportive of LGBTQIA+ students? If you live in a campus apartment or a residence hall, will you be assigned by legal sex? How will this impact you?
  • Are you willing to conform to and follow the cultural customs in the host country, or do you need to choose a different program?
  • What are the attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity in your host county? How is the LGBTQIA+ community defined and perceived? What is the local law enforcement attitude?