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Study Abroad Identity

We are committed to Inclusive Excellence, and encourage and support the participation of students representing different groups based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, ability, nationality, and religion. The talents, experiences, and worldviews that diverse participants bring to your study abroad experiences are valuable assets not only to the DU community, but also to your communities abroad.

Study abroad offers you opportunities to gain new perspectives on your field of study, enhance language and communication abilities, and develop skills that may impact career development.In addition, living in another cultural context provides great possibilities for personal growth and identity exploration. We are shaped and often defined by our surroundings and culture. When you experience new situations, you are often able to view yourself in a new light, examine your privileges, and connect with aspects of yourself that you had not previously explored.

In addition to the educational, travel, health and safety, and adjustment issues facing all international sojourners, many DU students may have additional identity-related considerations when deciding whether, where, and how to take advantage of international opportunities.We encourage you to consult the resources included below, and invite you and your family to discuss questions and concerns with your international education advisor.

Students of Color

Students of color may experience both challenges and opportunities abroad in terms of host country attitudes toward racial issues. Many students find differing levels of sensitivity in the host country challenging – in some cultures, it is common to give individuals nicknames based on physical characteristics such as weight, hair color/texture, and skin color. This habit can be disconcerting for those from the U.S., but is often not meant to be offensive, and can even be intended as a term of endearment.

Studying abroad can represent an opportunity to act as a cultural ambassador and to educate host nationals about cultural groups within the United States; there is often great interest in other countries in the history and culture of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino/as.This interest presents great opportunities for conversations regarding your culture(s), media stereotypes, and diversity issues within your host country.

While some students choose study abroad destinations where there are very few persons of color, others might choose countries where communities of color make up the majority. Some students may be interested in “heritage seeking” and will opt to study in a location connected to their religious, linguistic, national, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. These types of locations present a different set of possibilities, and may also include unexpected challenges. For example, community members may have high expectations regarding the cultural knowledge and linguistic capabilities of heritage seeking students.

Regardless of your study abroad destination, you may find that your salient identities shift while abroad. Some students find that they are first viewed as a U.S. citizen rather than a person of color, and this can provide an interesting opportunity to explore how these aspects of self intersect. Staying connected with other students of color who are also abroad can help you process and reflect on your experience as it happens.

Researching your host country in advance can provide a better understanding of potential attitudes towards race and ethnicity in general and your own identities specifically. If you are interested in speaking with past participants of color, ask your international education advisor or the Center for Multicultural Excellence. You can also check with your OIE advisor regarding additional country-specific resources.

Resources for students of color:

  • All Abroad.us is a clearinghouse for advice, information, and mentors to encourage more diversity within study abroad. This site includes group-specific information for African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latino/a students.
  • Diversity Abroad.com offers destination-specific information, student advice and blogs, and information regarding financial and scholarships for diverse students.

If financing study abroad is a concern, see our scholarship page. In addition, many of our DU Partner Programs offer scholarships, some specifically for underrepresented students.

LGBTIQ Students

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer/Questioning (LGBTIQ) students face some special considerations when choosing a study abroad program. Laws pertaining to sexual orientation, same-sex sexual contact, and gender expression vary widely around the world, as do popular attitudes. Cultures also vary in terms of how sexual orientation and gender identities are defined and understood. Some countries are more liberal on these matters than the U.S. and some less. Moreover, whatever the general rule, there will always be pockets of difference and personal idiosyncrasies.

When choosing a study abroad destination, it is important to consider the following questions:

  • How open do you want/need to be about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity while abroad? Some countries may be far more supportive of LGBTIQ rights than is the U.S. In other cases, it may be inadvisable or even dangerous for you to come out to people in your host community. If you choose a location where you will need to hide your identity, how will this impact your overall study abroad experience?
  • Do you want/need to be part of a supportive LGBTIQ community? Are there LGBTIQ organizations on your host campus or in the community?
  • What are laws and cultural norms surrounding relationships and dating?
  • What types of housing options are available? If you will live with a host family, do you want to specifically request a family that is known to be supportive of LGBTIQ students? Some past students have wanted to come out to their host families prior to arrival, while others prefer to get to know them first and then make that decision.
  • If you regularly utilize any health or counseling services at home, will these be available and covered by insurance abroad?
  • If your gender presentation is different from your legal sex, or if you are in the process of transition, what types of challenges might you face with travel, immigration, and documents?

The resources below can help you learn more about laws, cultural norms, and other considerations regarding your study abroad experience.  You may also contact your international education advisor or the Center for Multicultural Excellence with any questions, concerns, or for additional country-specific resources.

Resources for LGBTIQ students:

We hope that you will consider participating in an international experience while at the University of Denver, and look forward to working with you.