Diversity & Identity

As you explore your options and prepare to study abroad, you will want to research the local practices associated with aspects of your identity. It is important to be aware of similar or differing social and cultural norms in your host country and prepare accordingly. The local socio-cultural context may present some challenges or rewards, but being knowledgeable beforehand equips you with the ability to better adjust in your new environment.

Disability Abroad

Students with disabilities participate in UA study abroad programs around the world!  Studying abroad can help you learn more about yourself and expand your worldview. As expressed by alumna Amanda Parkman, "[Studying abroad] is one of the best things I have ever done. I gained lifelong friendships, amazing memories, and it reinforced my independence”.

The key to a successful study abroad experience for all students is researching your options and planning early.  We recommend you start planning one year prior to studying abroad. After attending a Study Abroad 101 session, meet with a Study Abroad Coordinator to explore accessible programs. It’s also important to discuss your plans with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Study Abroad and the DRC will work with you to arrange reasonable accommodations abroad and assist you with the pre-departure process.

The lens through which disability is viewed varies greatly throughout the world. Views on independence, confidentiality, and respect for individual rights also differ from one country to the next. In many countries, there are no standards or requirements for providing access for disabled individuals. Accessible features like ramps, or parking spaces, Braille, assistive technology, or other curricular accommodations may be non-existent in parts of your host country, especially in rural areas. With some preparation, students with disabilities can enjoy a meaningful study abroad experience.

Tips for Success

Discuss your disability needs with us. Talk with your DRC Disability Consultant and Study Abroad Coordinator early, so reasonable accommodations can be organized in advance.

Remember that disability is viewed differently in other cultures. Be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.Be aware that there will be changes in the interaction between your disability and the new environment.

Accessibility varies widely in other countries. Learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your countries of interest. Use online resources such as Mobility International USA to connect with other disabled students who have studied abroad.

You can do it! With planning, preparation and flexibility, you can have an amazing experience abroad!

Online Resources

University of Arizona Disability Resource Center: hear from disabled students who have studied abroad and learn more about resources available

Mobility International USA: excellent resource center for disability-related questions about going abroad

Access Abroad: Comprehensive guide from the University of Minnesota for students with disabilities who want to study abroad

US Department of State – Traveling with Disabilities: offers wealth of valuable information regarding traveling abroad with a disability

Abroad with Disabilities Facebook Community: discuss topics relevant to study abroad and learn about resources and tips to prepare for your trip

Women & Gender Abroad

Whether you’ve traveled before or this is your first time abroad, it’s important to consider your host country’s cultural attitude towards gender identity. Depending on where you are, you may find different gender roles and norms than you’re used to. It’s possible that you may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on these factors. Everyone should consider possible issues, challenges, and changes they may face while abroad regarding societal perceptions of gender. When researching potential programs, consider your host country’s cultural differences and how these might impact your everyday life.

Learn about your country and the societal expectations for gender. Before you head abroad, ask questions, such as:

  • What are my host country's attitudes towards gender?
  • What are considered typical gender roles in my country?
  • What are the society's perceptions and expectations for men, women, and transgender individuals in my host country?
  • What are the gender stereotypes of Americans in my host country? 

The best rule is to always put your personal safety first. It is better to risk upsetting another person than to risk physical or emotional harm. And, like anything else, it is important to do your research before you head abroad.  

Online Resources

US Department of State: Information for Women Travelers: includes contact information for embassies abroad and country-specific details
Journeywoman: great resource for women traveling abroad where you can read first-hand travel experiences from a variety of women who have lived or traveled abroad
Her own way - a woman's safe-travel guide: very thorough resource for women travelers
Diversity Abroad - Women Abroad: good questions to consider and travel tips for women
UA Women's Resource Center: on-campus student center for women

LGBTQ Abroad

It is important to be aware that the way in which lesbian, gay, bi/pansexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) identities are perceived and understood differs greatly between each country and culture. While LGBTQ individuals can be widely accepted in some countries, other countries can be largely intolerant. As in any cross-cultural situation, it pays to observe and be sensitive to local customs, while respecting your own self expression. There isn't one way to conduct yourself while abroad, but it is important to remember that your identity is complex. Aspects of your identity that feel most salient in the United States may not feel as important abroad.  For example, you may be surprised that in many countries, others perceive your most salient identity to be your national identity as opposed to other identities you hold.

We recommend utilizing the online resources listed below as you prepare for your study abroad experience. Educating yourself about the country you will be studying in, how they address LGBTQ issues, and any applicable laws will go a long way in helping you have a safe and meaningful experience abroad.

Online Resources

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association: online country guides and an interactive map with information on how GLBT issues are addressed in specific countries

NAFSA: Association of International Educators - Rainbow Special Interest Group: valuable information for LGBTQ students traveling overseas

US Department of State LGBT Travel Information: helpful country-specific information, including the human rights report

University of Arizona LGBTQ Affairs: on-campus resource for students

Go Abroad LGBT Student Guide to Study Abroad: link to a comprehensive guide available 

Race and Ethnicity Abroad

In the United States, you may be seen first through the lens of your race or ethnicity.  However, while abroad you are likely to be first classified as an American regardless of your race or ethnicity. Depending on your region of travel, it may be the first time you are in the position of being a minority. People will likely have an opinion, which they are eager to share, about the United States.

Many people you encounter abroad will also show a sincere interest in you whether it be your American culture, your ethnic culture, or your racial background. There may be people who stare at you or who are eager to touch your hair or your skin. If you are traveling in an area where people have little or no contact with people different from them, know that people may be very curious, especially children. If somebody says or does something that is offensive to you, try to distinguish between a person who is genuinely curious about you or your culture and someone who has bad intentions. You may find yourself in some uncomfortable situations, but try your best to be flexible and understanding.  However, always remember to put your safety first.

Like many other aspects of study abroad, it is important to research before you go abroad. What was the experience of past students of your ethnicity who lived in that country? How does your host country view immigration? What kind of contacts and relations has your minority group had in your host country?

Online Resources

Diversity Abroad - Racial & Ethnic Minority Students Abroad: good questions to ask and tips to have a successful study abroad experience 

All Abroad.us Resources: great information for African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander students

PLATO - Resources to Support Underrepresented Students: comprehensive collection of articles and websites to help increase the participation by diverse students in study abroad

Religion Abroad

Religion often plays an important role in the culture of many countries and can be a great way for you to learn more about the country and its people. It is a good idea to research the religion(s) observed in your host country before you go abroad. Depending on where you go, religion may play a larger or smaller role than it does here in the US.

While you may be used to being part of the religious majority in the United States, your beliefs may make you a part of the religious minority while abroad. Most importantly, you want to be aware of the level of religious tolerance in your host country so you can make an informed decision on how you will practice your religion while abroad.

Students should always understand local laws, especially in regards to activities that appear as proselytizing and/or preaching. Always demonstrate respect to icons, statues, etc and by wearing appropriate clothing (for example, many churches and temples forbid shoulders or knees to be exposed). If you are unsure how to dress or act, ask!

Online Resources

U.S. Department of State Religious Freedom

BBC Guide to Religion

Veterans Abroad

As the number of veteran students within higher education continues to increase, so too does the number of veterans participating in study abroad. When spending time overseas as part of the military, it is often difficulty for individuals to remove themselves from being viewed through the military lens by local residents. By studying abroad, veterans can experience life overseas in a different way than they may have while in the military.

Many veterans are able to use their benefits to help fund their study abroad experience.  If you are interested in using your VA benefits to assist in payment of a study abroad program, you must plan ahead.  You will need to work closely with Study Abroad and the UA Veterans Services Office to find the program that fits the requirements of the VA and your study abroad goals.   In most instances the VA will only cover tuition costs and not other study abroad related fees.  The Veterans Services Coordinator will be able to assist you in determining what, if any, the VA can cover.

Online Resources

UA Registrar's Veteran Services Office: on-campus resource to assist veterans and dependents eligible to participate in the GI Bill.

Post-9/11 GI Bill - Study Abroad Programs

Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS): on-campus resource that supports the success of student veterans

Students who are Parents

Each and every study abroad program is a little different. Some are led by faculty-leaders, others are a cohort model and some provide a student a great amount of flexibility and independence. Having a child should by no means deter you from studying abroad; it simply requires you to consider your academic and personal needs as well as those of your child. Each Study Abroad Coordinator is happy to discuss programs in their region that would allow more flexibility, so that you can study abroad with your child. As you research different programs and locations, be sure to consider visa requirements for students and their dependents, childcare options in that country/city, and what kind of housing options are available on that particular program.