Diversity and Identity Resources
The Global Education Office believes that every student should have the opportunity to have a learning experience abroad, no matter their background.
You will see that we provide a number of resources for students of different races and ethnicities, first generation students, LGBTQ+ students, students who disabilities, students of different religions and spiritualities and women who are going abroad. If you have questions or concerns about any of these resources or questions pertaining to what your experience will be like going abroad, you are more than welcome to set up an appointment to speak with a study abroad advisor.
Race & Ethnicity
Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself and reflect on your identity. However, some students face the challenge of going to a country where their race or ethnicity is viewed as the minority, often for the first time in their lives, and how they are defined and perceived by others will vary by country and culture. This can lead to both positive and negative interactions in the host culture. You may have the opportunity to participate in thoughtful dialogue about how different identities are perceived abroad. However, there also may be moments where you are asked uncomfortable or inappropriate questions, whether that is done by the person asking with good intentions or not. Assess the situation and decide what you feel is the appropriate way to respond. Remember, your safety is what is the most important.
One way to help you prepare is to do as much research as you can on your host country so that you can at least have a general idea on what to expect. We also recommend speaking with the Study Abroad Advisor if you have questions or concerns. Diversity Abroad also provides a number of resources to help guide minority students through their time abroad. One of these resources is a list of questions that will allow you to help reflect on what your racial and ethnic identity will mean when going abroad:
Questions for Students
- How is my ethnic group perceived in my host country? What kind of stereotypes are there?
- How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
- Is the person curious or do they have bad intentions?
- Has my host family housed minority students before? If not, will this be an issue for them?
- Am I used to being part of the majority at home but will be a minority abroad? Or vice versa?
- Will there be other minority students in my program?
- Who will I contact if I do face racial or discriminatory incidents?
- Does my program have support staff that will understand and help me through any racial or discriminatory incident I may face?
Tips for Students
- Remember that people abroad have different cultural norms and tend to be less “politically correct” than people in the U.S.
- The more you integrate with the culture the less you’ll stand out, but your skin, hair, or other features may still attract attention.
- Research what kinds of contact and relations your minority group has had in your host country. You may also want to research immigration in general.
- Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity.
- Learn more about other minority students’ experiences abroad. For example, you can talk to other minority students who have studied abroad or find information online.
- Build a support network among other study abroad students so that if you do face racial or discriminatory incidents you’ll have support to deal with it.
- Be prepared if an incident does arise, but don’t go abroad expecting racism or discrimination.
In addition to Diversity Abroad, there a number of other resources we strongly recommend:
- All Abroad, like Diversity Abroad, this website provides a number of resources and student stories for those of diverse backgrounds who will be studying abroad.
- PLATO (Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach) provides a an extensive list of articles for students of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- 10 Reasons for Native American Students to Study Abroad
- 10 Reasons for African American Students to Study Abroad
- 10 Reasons for Asian/Pacific Islander Students to Study Abroad
- 10 Reasons for Hispanic American Students to Study Abroad
- Michigan State University: Scholarships for Multicultural Students lists a number of scholarship opportunities for students of multicultural backgrounds to apply for.
If you have additional questions or concerns, you are also more than welcome to talk with a Study Abroad advisor in our office or visit the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion.
First Generation Students
If you are a first generation student, there can often be a lot of questions and concerns that arise when considering studying abroad. You may even be the first in your family to live abroad and need additional support in navigating the university and study abroad system. Our staff is more than happy to help walk you through the steps of selecting a study abroad program and discussing the application process, as well as answering any questions you have along the way.
First generations students can face the barrier of trying to explain to family their desire to go abroad, so it is important for you to be prepared and do your research. You want to make sure to consider your goals for going abroad, how your study abroad experience will fit in with your academic and career plan, as well as if your financial aid can be applied and what scholarships are available to you. Make sure that you contact the resources that you have available to you on campus such as your Academic Advisor, the Financial Aid office, and the EOP office if that applies to your situation. We also recommend taking a looks at our scholarships and financial aid pages for more information on how to help plan financially for your time abroad.
It is also helpful if you can research the benefits of study abroad that you can share with family or friends who may not fully understand your reasoning for going abroad. NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisers) provides a list of the number of benefits associated with study abroad. This includes:
- Enhance Your Global Awareness. You can enhance your awareness of the world around you by studying abroad. To be an educated citizen today requires students to able to see the world through others’ eyes and to understand the international dimensions of the problems we confront as a nation skills that are enhanced by an education abroad experience.
- Enhance Your Academic Learning. You can help enhance your academic learning by studying abroad. A study abroad experience will introduce you to new professors who can expose you to new viewpoints beyond your campus, and a diverse student body that can introduce you to different customs and cultures. A study abroad experience also lets you expand your academic learning outside of the classroom, because you live what you are learning.
- Develop Your Leadership Skills. You can strengthen your leadership skills by studying abroad. An educational opportunity outside the United States can be among the most valuable tools for preparing a student to participate and lead effectively in an increasingly interconnected international community that demands cross-cultural skills and knowledge.
- Advance Your Career. You can help advance your career by studying abroad. In today’s increasingly global society, obtaining international skills and knowledge can make you more marketable in getting a job and more productive once you’re in the job.
- Experience Personal Growth. You can experience significant personal growth by studying abroad. Students who study abroad discover that in the process of learning about other countries and culture they end up learning more about themselves in ways that simply cannot be replicated in the comforting and familiar confines of an American campus.
- Learn Another Language. Students can better learn another language by studying abroad. Immersion in another language through study abroad is one of the best ways to gain proficiency in that language.
Other helpful resources include
Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to learn about the customs and values of another country while also allowing them to reflect on their identity. Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, or students who are currently exploring and questioning their identity, may be presented with additional challenges when going abroad. Depending on the country you choose to study, the laws and values may be vastly different from those in the U.S. Before you go abroad, be sure to research the laws regarding anti-discrimination, same-sex sexual behavior and the restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQ+ people. ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) is a good resource for information on laws in different countries. Also, be sure read about the LGBTQ+ climate of the country where you will be studying, and reflect on how your identity as a LGBTQ+ person may affect your relationships with others in the host county.
Northwestern University provides a list of very useful questions to ask yourself as you prepare to go abroad:
- Does your right to be LGBTQ+ in the United States conflict with your host country’s religious or cultural values and traditions?
- How will you reconcile your human rights with the cultural values of your host society?
- Are there safety considerations that you should be aware of?
- What are gender relations in the host culture?
- What is considered typical male and female social behavior in the host culture?
- What is the social perception of members of the LGBTQ+ community?
- What roles do trans people play in the host culture?
- Does your study abroad program offer LGBTQ+ friendly housing?
- Does your study abroad program discuss LGBTQ+ considerations during their orientation?
There are a number of additional resources to consult before going abroad. Please read below for more information.
LGBTQ+ Travel Resources
- U.S. Department of State LGBTI Travel Information
- International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association
- LGBTQ Country-Specific Information Document
- LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Brochure
- LGBT Student Guide for Education Abroad Document (Country Specific)
- OutRight Action International
Trans Travel Information
LGBTQ+ Mental Health
- GoAbroad-12 Study Abroad Scholarships for LGBT Students
- TopUniversities-LGBT Scholarships Around the World
- NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group
If you have additional questions or concerns, you are also more than welcome to talk with a Study Abroad Advisor in our office, visit the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion or consult SUNY Plattsburgh’s LGBTQ+ Online Resource Center.
Disability & Accessibility
Students who have physical, mental or learning disabilities may feel unsure about whether the accommodations abroad will meet their needs. It is important to notify our office about the country/school you are thinking of attending and any specific accommodations you need so that we can work with the host campus to make sure that your time abroad is successful. Keep in mind that some countries may not have the same kind of access that is available to you at Plattsburgh. For example, depending on the country, housing and transportation may be vastly different compared to what you are used to. It is important for you to research the host country to learn about the country’s laws and see what type of accommodations are generally available. It is also important that you understand how the host culture views disability to help better prepare you for your time abroad. If you are going to a country where English is not the first language spoken, you should also learn the proper vocabulary for explaining your disability to those in your host country.
Our office is more than happy to assist you in any way we can to make sure that studying abroad is an exciting and accessible time for you. We also recommend that you look at these resources to help better understand disability and study abroad:
- Mobility International USA Mobility International USA (MIUSA) aspires to empower people with disabilities through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training, to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange and development programs.
- University of Minnesota University of Minnesota provides a comprehensive list of tips and questions to ask before going abroad. There is also a section that provides county-specific information on disability-related attitudes and legislation.
- Abroad with Disabilities This organization was started by a student who studied abroad in Costa Rica with a disability and has made it her focus to empower people with disabilities to pursue international study, work, volunteer, and/or internship opportunities abroad.
- Go Overseas-How Students with Disabilities Can Study Abroad This is a blog post that includes student quotes about studying abroad with a disability.
Religion & Spirituality
A great benefit of going abroad is that you have the opportunity to learn about other religions and values that you may be less familiar with. This can allow you to become a more understanding, open-minded and well rounded person. Be prepared as well for the idea that you may be a part of the religious majority at home, but will be part of the religious minority in your host country and vice versa. To help you prepare, it is best to do your research before going abroad about the country’s religion and religious practices.
Diversity Abroad provides a comprehensive list of questions you should ask before going abroad and also tips about religion:
Questions About Religion
- What is the dominant religion in my host country?
- Will I be part of the religious majority or minority abroad?
- Are there any laws regarding religion? Is there a separation between religion and government?
- How tolerant is the host country of other religions? What about atheists and agnostics?
- Is it safe for me to wear religious symbols or clothing?
Tips About Religion:
- Stay open minded about religious practices, even if you receive criticism for your beliefs.
- If you are planning to practice your religion abroad, you may want to find out what places of worship there are.
- If you have religious dietary restrictions, be sure to let your program director or appropriate staff know ahead of time.
- Depending on where you go, religion may have a larger or smaller role than it does in the U.S.
- Use your experience abroad to learn about world religions the role they play in diverse cultures.
Please consider the resources below as well.
Women Going Abroad
Beliefs about gender values and norms vary from country to country, so you may experience or witness behavior that is not commonplace in the United States but is in your host country. It is also important to recognize that how you dress and behave in the United States may be inappropriate for where you’re living abroad. Depending on where you go, you may receive unwanted attention or witness actions towards women that cause you to feel upset and confused. It is important that you do as much research as you can about gender roles and norms in your host country before going abroad and also bring clothes that are similar to what the local women wear. Your safety is what it most important, and you can contact our office any time if you have questions. Diversity Abroad provides a great list of questions you should ask before you go abroad as well as tips for when you’re abroad:
Questions for Women
- Is it safe for me to go out alone at night? Are there areas or places I should avoid?
- How are women expected to behave?
- How do men treat women?
- What are the cultural norms regarding friendship and dating?
- Do people in my host country have stereotypes of American women?
Tips for Women
- Do research on gender roles and their history beforehand.
- Put your safety first and be aware of your surroundings.
- Dress and act like the local women to avoid standing out.
- Be aware of cultural differences, including body language, that may be misinterpreted in your host culture.
- Talk with other women who have studied abroad to find out more about their experiences.
Please consult the resources below as well.