Every student, even if in the same program or country, will experience studying abroad differently. Commonly held beliefs and values may be very different country by country and can affect your experience. It is important to research cultural expectations in your destination country and how you can ensure you are prepared for any potential challenges.
Cultural norms around gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and others may vary greatly from country to country. Sometimes the places with extreme differences are easier to handle than more subtle differences. You may find that certain aspects of your identity become stronger while abroad (e.g. religious affiliation, national identity) while others may not be as prioritized.
Identity and forms of discrimination such as racism and sexism can take different forms in different cultures. Students are encouraged to reflect on currently held identities and how these identities may be affected based on location, duration, and experience abroad. While abroad, you may be perceived differently than you see yourself. In addition, it is possible to experience racism and discrimination in very different ways than what may have been experienced at home – this can often feel like the discrimination is worse than back home. Experiences abroad may promote growth and intercultural learning, but can also be challenging and uncomfortable at times. Our goal is to help you prepare for these potential challenges, promoting an understanding of cultural context and differences to encourage growth while abroad.
We encourage you to support classmates whenever possible and learn about identities outside of your own to promote understanding and inclusivity for all. Familiarizing yourself with your own personally held identities and the values of others can be extremely helpful when learning to navigate new customs and cultures.
Illinois Abroad & Global Exchange Student Ambassadors (Identity-focused advising)
IFSA Butler Unpacked Student Stories
GoAbroad E-Book Series