Student Identities Abroad
We want to have you learn how to thrive in another culture and explore new spaces while feeling included, welcomed, and seen. A lot of this has to do with the identities we take into a new area and how they intersect with one another and the host culture. Understanding your own identities can help you get more comfortable in a new culture, express yourself to others, and actively engage in a new setting.
The diversity wheel from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Diversity Leadership Council is a great resource for visualizing cultural diversity. “The center of the wheel represents internal dimensions that are usually most permanent or visible. The outside of the wheel represents dimensions that are acquired and change over the course of a lifetime. The combinations of all of these dimensions influence our values, beliefs, behaviors, experiences and expectations and make us all unique as individuals” (Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council, n.d.).
You may also be able to explore your identities in ways you have not been able to before! For example, you can be Latinx/e and be able to explore heritage in a Spanish-speaking country, or you may practice your faith in different or similar ways in your new home or speak a dialect not commonly heard by locals. Others may see you as a U.S. American first, before anything else, something you may not be familiar with. In addition, the information they receive about politics, events, and popular culture from the U.S. may shape their perception, and your identity greatly informs your response or knowledge of these topics.
Additionally, different members of your group may be treated differently depending on their identities, appearance, cultural norms, and whether or not they have some commonalities with individuals from the host culture. For example, you may be seen as an immigrant if you share some physical characteristics of the most predominant immigrant group in the country. Or, if you speak the local language, you may be treated differently, or have more of an “in” socially.
- How have my identities given me skills, knowledge, and traits I can use to help me abroad?
- How do my identities intersect? At what point can one identity be more apparent or involved than the other? How could this change abroad?
- How will I be perceived at my destination? What identities may be more salient or of interest to locals?
- What are some events or issues happening in the U.S. that I may be asked about, and do they have anything to do with any of my identities?
- What are some events or issues at my destination that could relate to any of my identities, or individuals who share some identity traits?
- How are individuals from the U.S. seen or perceived at my destination?
Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Students Abroad
Participating in a Study Abroad program can make you think about your identity differently. Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture, meaning that while you’re abroad, you may be part of an ethnic majority for the first time in your life or be one of the only representatives of a racial identity in your group. You could even be presented with a fantastic opportunity to connect and learn about your ancestral history and culture first-hand.
You can prepare yourself for the situations you may encounter by researching your host country's minority and majority racial/ethnic composition and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations.
- People may categorize and interpret your race, ethnicity and other identity attributes quite differently than what you are used to.
- Host culture members may think of you as, for example, an American (and the assumptions in that culture that are associated with U.S. Americans) first without considering your other identities much at all.
- There is the possibility that you may encounter microaggressions or overt discrimination that are culturally or linguistically specific, with uses of certain terms or actions you may not be familiar with if they are not common in your home community.
- You also may not be able to find culturally-specific products you are used to, like beauty or hair care, especially in rural communities. Stock up on what you can in your luggage if possible.
- Do not feel pressured to mask your identity. You may find that confronting and coping with your adjustment abroad can be a positive growth experience, even if challenging at times.
- Find students of color who have recently studied abroad and ask them about their experiences.
- Look at international news sources to get a sense of current political and societal issues in your host country.
What are some of the cultural norms of my host country?
How might I be perceived in my host community?
Could there be other students of color in my program?
Could I experience discrimination in the country I study in? Who can I contact if I do?
- Edmonds College Center for Cultural Diversity and Inclusion
- Trio Student Support Services
- Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Abroad - a helpful list of tips and must-ask questions for racial and ethnic minority students from Diversity Abroad
- Diversity Abroad Scholarships
- Fund for Education Abroad Scholarships
- Project for Learning Abroad, Training and Outreach (PLATO) - resources and scholarship opportunities meant to encourage and support Study Abroad among minority students
- Tips for Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad- An article from Diversity Abroad
- Heritage Travel- A resource page from GoAbroad.com
Asian-American and Asian Heritage Students:
- Asian American/Pacific Islander Students Abroad - A resource page from the State University of New York
- An (Asian) American Abroad- An article from The Mash Up Americans
- Asian in America, American in Asia- An article from IES Abroad
- Being Chinese American in China- An article from The Beijing Center
- On Belonging: Studying Abroad in Asia as an Asian American/Heritage Learner- An article from CET Academic Programs
Black and African-American Students:
- Nomadness Travel Tribe, a travel family of over 25,000 black and brown nomads
- Black and Abroad, a collective of influencers sharing travel experiences to show familiar faces in unfamiliar places
- Travel Noire, a digital platform dedicated to making travel more inclusive
- STAMPED - A podcast on Anchor and Spotify of Black Students' experiences abroad, how they overcame fears, and explored their identity abroad.
- Top 10 Reasons for African American Students to Go Abroad - some things to consider from Transitions Abroad
- Traveling with Natural Hair - An IES panel from Black Individual's hair-care journeys while abroad, and a list of tips for managing this.
- Melanin Madrid- A Blog with information on living in Spain as a Black person.
- My Very Personal Taste of Racism Abroad - a New York Times essay written by a woman who studied abroad in Italy.
LatinX and Hispanic Students:
- 10 Reasons for Hispanic-American Students to Study Abroad - Article from the Hispanic Network
- 7 Study Abroad Scholarships for Hispanic Students - GoAbroad Article
- My Study Abroad Experience as a First-Generation Mexican-American - Article by ISA Today
Native American and Indigenous Students:
- Native American Students Abroad - A resource page from the State University of New York
- Native Land - An interactive map to know what indigenous land you are on anywhere in the world.
Pacific Islander/Pacifika Students:
- Asian American/Pacific Islander Students Abroad - A resource page from the State University of New York
DACA-Mented and DREAMer Students Abroad
Process of Participating in Study Abroad Programs Through Advanced Parole
Undocumented students can participate in Study Abroad programs through the Department of Homeland Security's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum (DACA).
This page is intended to provide general information to students, parents, and university employees regarding DACA and Study Abroad. This information is not to be considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
- DACAmented individuals can apply for specific permission to leave and re-enter the United States for employment, humanitarian and educational reasons, including potentially studying abroad on approved university programs, using a travel document known as Advance Parole.
- Despite possessing this advance permission to return to the United States, a returning DACA recipient is considered an applicant for admission and could still be subject to removal proceedings based upon applicable grounds of inadmissibility.
- The fact that the Advance Parole document was issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not mean that all DACA students can safely use it.
- Depending on the DACA student’s specific immigration history, a departure from the U.S. and attempted use of an Advance Parole Document may not result in their successful return to the U.S. They could have serious negative consequences for their future immigration process.
The law relating to travel on Advance Parole for DACA students is complicated. We strongly encourage you to seek counsel with an immigration attorney before considering this as an option, such as with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Once you’ve discussed your circumstances with legal counsel and decided that you want to participate in a Study Abroad program, you should determine if the Study Abroad program deadlines align with your DACA renewal (if applicable) timeframe and the application processing timelines for Advance Parole.
Important: Edmonds College’s Study Abroad Office cannot guarantee re-entry back into the United States, even though students are participating in an approved Edmonds College Study Abroad program.
First Generation Students
As a First-Generation student, not only are you the first in your family to pursue a college/university degree, but you also may have the incredible opportunity to be the first to ever participate in a Study Abroad program! !
How can I explain to my family that a Study Abroad experience can contribute to achieving my academic and career goals?
The best advice that we can give you is to prepare the necessary information thoroughly first. Present them with information on:
- The campus resources that will support you through the Study Abroad process (International Advising, Academic Advising, Financial Aid, etc.).
- The specifics of how you can use financial aid and scholarships for Study Abroad.
- The benefits of Study Abroad, especially to help with your career and/or other post-graduation or transfer opportunities.
- The Health and Safety Section of our website, in case there are any travel safety concerns from family members.
Are there additional funding sources I can look into to help finance my Study Abroad program?
- If you qualify, there are financial resources available to help fund your experience. There is a wide variety of departmental, external, and national scholarships. Check out our Funding Page for more information.
- Begin planning your Study Abroad experience nine months to one year before your anticipated departure, to develop a financial plan.
- Trio Student Support Services
- First Generation Students Traveling Abroad, Diversity Abroad
- Taking Advantage of Resources as a First Generation College Student, Diversity Abroad
- A Different Experience: Supporting First Generation College Students in Study Abroad, Institute of International Education
- My First Generation Study Abroad Experience, NASPA Center for First Generation Student Success
Gender Identity Abroad
When considering Study Abroad program destinations, it’s important to recognize that societal expectations based on gender can differ between countries. You should do some research to become familiar with local laws and customs to make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs that will be the best fit for you and your needs. Explore travel guides and internet resources. Talk with other people about their experiences in certain countries or regions.
Your behavior in some situations may be viewed differently abroad than in the U.S. Inform yourself about behavioral expectations, dating, and relationships in your host culture as best as possible.
- Talk with peers who have studied in your host country before and locals your age to gauge what’s typical.
- You may find that what is viewed as acceptable behavior in your host country is offensive to you or makes you uncomfortable. Conversely, acceptable behavior in the U.S. may be viewed as unacceptable or offensive in your host country.
- The “rules” of dating vary from culture to culture. For example, cultural differences can make male-female friendships more challenging.
- Consider the implicit messages you are communicating, which you may not intend to send in your own cultural context.
- Harassment may be challenging to identify abroad, where cultural norms are often different than those in the U.S. However, cultural sensitivity does not mean you must submit to behaviors that invade your boundaries or make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- If you identify as an LGBTQIA+ community member, it’s also important to educate yourself on the social norms and local laws regarding same-sex relationships. Read more in our LGBTQIA+ Students section.
- What is the attitude towards gender norms in my host country?
- What are considered typical gender roles in my host society?
- What are the society’s perceptions and expectations of my gender in my host country?
- What are the gender stereotypes of Americans in my host country?
- Are there differences in political and social power based on gender?
- How do my personal values compare with my host country’s attitudes about socially-accepted gender roles?
International Students Abroad
Studying abroad benefits all, even if you are already an international student at Edmonds College. International students can and do go on study abroad experiences that count towards their current degree or transfer requirements.
- Check the courses for programs of interest, meet with your adviser to see how they would count towards your degree plan, and make sure the credits count towards your full-time enrollment.
- Check the program's timeline to ensure it will not conflict with any visa dates or alter your immigration status. You can also talk to an adviser in the Office of International Programs about this.
- Check if you need a visa and the passport requirements for entry into the destination country for the study abroad program. These requirements may be different from expectations for US passport holders or domestic students.
- Check how the program fees and tuition will be billed and what scholarships are available for international students on our Funding page. International students may need help to use financial aid towards a study abroad program that domestic students do by having a FAFSA on file. In addition, many national study abroad scholarships are only open to US citizens, so a funding plan in advance is important.
- If you are in Optional Practical Training (OPT), check how the requirements for any work you do on/off campus may need to be altered during the study abroad program.
- What credits and academic requirements do I need to fulfill, and how could that happen in a study abroad program?
- Will the time that this program leaves conflict with any immigration statuses, and how do I check this?
- What is my plan for paying for any program fees of tuition that are different from a usual term at Edmonds College?
LGBTQIA+ Students Abroad
As a student in the LGBTQIA+ community, you may wish to consider some additional issues before and during your Study Abroad experience, so you can feel confident, safe, and proud to be you in another culture.
- Research the LGBTQIA+ climate of your host country. Explore different resources (such as those below) to gain a better understanding of what the social perception is.
- Talk with other LGBTQIA+ peers about their experiences in specific countries or regions.
- Understand your host country's context, customs, laws, and attitudes. Similar expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings in different places. In some locations, open expressions of your sexual orientation might be criticized.
- What could it mean to be fully “out” or to temporarily closet/codeswitch certain aspects of your identity?
- Keep in mind that you are no longer protected by U.S. laws once outside the United States, so knowing what laws are there to protect (or actively do the opposite to protect) you in the host country are essential. You can also discuss with our office and/or the program leaders or hosts what these laws look like in practice and if they are more actively utilized for the country’s citizens, more for tourists, or both.
- Does your right to be LGBTQIA+ in the United States conflict with your host country’s religious or cultural values and traditions?
- What role do Transgender individuals play in the culture?
- Are there safety considerations you should be aware of?
- Are there “public decency” laws? Or “public indecency” laws?
- What is the police attitude towards the local LBGTQIA+ community?
- Will laws and attitudes be the same for different social classes or geographic areas?
- What resources are available in my host country for LGBTQIA+ individuals?
- Are there any LBGTQIA+ -friendly establishments/neighborhoods/events nearby? How can I find them?
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family, and others?
- How important is it to me to find other LGBTQIA+ students and friends while abroad? How will I connect with other LGBTQIA+ students, local residents, or community organizations?
- What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? Can the program make special accommodations for students who request single rooms, private bathrooms/showers, or certain roommates?
- If I am a Transgender person, will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to support my transition? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need additional documentation to travel with my medication or supplies? Will my passport and other legal ID/travel documents be ready for passage in and out of international ports?
- Diversity Abroad - Guide for LGBTQ+ students abroad
- LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources - A page curated by IES, a study abroad organization, including student blog posts
- Fund for Education Abroad - information about the Rainbow Scholarship (for LGBTQIA study abroad students)
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - country-specific information related to legal rights and social climate
- LGBT Travel Information - information provided by the U.S. State Department
- LGBT Rights Around the World - an interative map from TheGuardian.com of the legal rights of people in the LGBTQIA community
- National Center for Transgender Equality - resources on how to update IDs (including passports) and rights at airport security
- Scholarships for LGBTQIA Students - a list of study abroad scholarship opportunities specifically for members of the LGBTQIA community
- Queering the Map- An anonymous world map where individuals all over the world can post insight into being LGBTQIA+ in that area, and significant coming out or other points of their life.
Non-Traditional, Parent, and Professional Students Abroad
“Non-Traditional” students are becoming the norm in US higher education, which is fantastic for studying abroad, as you can bring a wealth of experience. Usually, “non-traditional” can mean the following:
- Did not enter postsecondary education immediately after high school
- Has a GED instead of a high school diploma
- Works full-time while enrolled at Edmonds College
- Has dependents other than a spouse
You may face unique challenges when it comes to your Study Abroad program. You may be a parent, have responsibilities to other family members, have a full-time job, and take classes when possible. Yet despite the obstacles you may have faced, you continue to overcome them and understand how important furthering your education is for your career.
Is it possible for me to take my child or spouse/partner/fiancé(e) along with me on my Study Abroad program?
Depending on the program, your child and/or spouse may accompany you on your Study Abroad program. However, there are many challenges that you should consider:
- Accounting for unanticipated additional costs, housing restrictions and/or special visa requirements
- Developing a separate itinerary for your child and/or spouse
Arranging childcare for accompanying children
- Purchasing comprehensive international medical insurance for your child or spouse
- You might also consider participating in a Study Abroad program without your child.
- Due to the group insurance liability, your child or spouse will not be permitted to participate in any of the program activities (classes, group activities/meals, excursions, etc.). This will have a greater impact in the quarter and short-term programs that often travel in a group.
- Enrolling your child in a local school may be an excellent opportunity to have your child be involved with other children in the host country during the day, but it may be challenging to find a school compared to in the U.S.
- The comprehensive international medical insurance you receive as a Study Abroad student will not be provided for your child or spouse. It will be your responsibility to determine if you have adequate medical insurance for your family members.
- Consider looking into the few programs or countries that would allow you to work part-time while on a Study Abroad program if you are concerned about taking a leave of absence from work. This option is only available in some countries, so be sure to plan ahead.
Can I request to not have a roommate, or to live with people of my age that share my interests?
This depends on the program. It is your responsibility to research available housing options and secure alternative arrangements as needed, and it will likely cost you more to live without a roommate. Ultimately, your ability to live abroad without a roommate depends on the availability of local resources in the respective program location and is at the discretion of the program leaders with whom we work. Be sure to speak with our office if this is necessary.
It may be possible for you to live with other students of your approximate age. If your Study Abroad program includes housing, indicate this preference when completing your housing application.
Students with Physical, Mental, Behavioral, Learning, and/or Neurological Disabilities Abroad
Students who need accommodations for disabilities may find new questions to address before and during their Study Abroad program. Laws and cultural norms that impact accessibility vary from country to country. For example, in the U.S., wheelchair accessibility or study aids for visual impairment are disability-related needs that U.S. universities address regularly, and federal laws govern how these issues are handled. Students who need accommodations for disabilities may find new questions to address before and during their Study Abroad program.
Depending on the program and location you choose, your needs may present a relatively uncommon scenario for a Study Abroad program provider to consider in an environment governed by different disability laws and social norms. Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of their abilities is strongly encouraged to participate in Study Abroad programs; however, planning is essential.
For procedures on supporting Travelers with Disabilities, please consult this section on the Health and Safety Page.
- Edmonds College Services for Students with Disabilities
- Trio Student Support Services
- Mobility International USA
- Students with Disabilities Abroad- Diversity Abroad
- Disability Resources A-Z- MIUSA
- Travelers with Disabilities- U.S. Dept. of State
- Disability Travel- Transitions Abroad
- The Wheelchair Nomad- A Travel Blog
- Studying in Germany as a Disabled Person Guide
- Studying in the UK as a Disabled Person Guide
- Studying in Australia as a Disabled Person Guide
In your program, you may have privileges that other members of the group will not experience. You may have new benefits in the host culture that you do not have in the U.S. based on your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, language, socio-economic background, age, sexual orientation, education, and others.
We carry our identities everywhere, especially if they are visible to others, and some are marginalized because of them. You can help others whose experience may have more health and safety considerations, mental health needs, and other issues you may not need to experience. However, if the group thrives, the experience will be better for everyone.
Examples of Allyship on a Program:
- You are walking with a classmate to a cafe in town, and some local men call insults at her. You recognize the words to mean “darker-skinned.” Since he is a target of harassment but you don’t want him to be in potential danger, you say you are happy to walk with him anytime in the city, especially at night. This way, you both have a great time getting to know the area safely.
- The whole group is at the welcome dinner for your program. While socializing, someone you have just met jokes about how “ghetto” everyone else in the program seems, including an embarrassed person next to you, and you two are the only ones who look like they have travel experience. You ask what they mean and explain the joke, which trips them up as they think of an explanation. You explain that travel experience apparently doesn’t always make you less narrow-minded, and you go with your friend who was insulted to talk to someone else.
- You see someone from your group on the bus. Someone sits next to your Transgender female friend and comments on her clothing being revealing and mistakes her for a sex worker. You call your friend over to get them away from the perpetrator, and get off with them at their station just in case she is followed. You then figure out with them how to safely report harassment on public transportation if it happens again and what local authorities’ attitudes could be to Transgender people reporting incidents.
- You are walking with a group and see what looks like a couple arguing, and the male looks like he is making threatening gestures. Instead of being bystanders, you confront the situation by filming with your friends and letting the man know he is being filmed. He gives up and walks away, and you walk with the female to a safe, public convenience store until she can get a ride out of there.
To be an Active Ally:
- Be open to listening.
- Be aware of your implicit biases.
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggles of others.
- Acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems and how you could take part in systemic change.
- Use your privilege to amplify historically suppressed voices.
- Accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable, and listen to why you are being criticized.
- Do not ask others to teach you how to be an ally.
- Don’t compare your struggles or participate in the “Oppression Olympics.”
- Do not behave as though you know best.
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized.
- Do not assume that every member of a marginalized community feels oppressed or their victimhood is their entire identity.
Performative vs. Active Allyship:
- A performative ally asks for others to educate them on how to gain knowledge and skills, and an active ally does the research on their own, before they ask questions, not expecting the answers to be easy or automatic.
- A performative ally watches the struggle with sympathy, and an active ally takes on the struggle to help others.
- A performative ally acknowledges their privilege but continues to benefit from it, and an active ally transfers their privilege to others.
- A performative ally parrots the voices of the oppressed without giving credit, and an active ally learns of oppression and amplifies the voices of those who are doing the work from oppressed communities.
- A performative ally gets stuck being upset or hurt by oppression in the world, and an active ally does not make those emotions about them.
- A performative ally’s allyship is conditional and may be hurt or offended when criticized or not trusted by the oppressed. An active ally understands this can happen but still wants to make systemic change happen.
Adapted from similar content at Arizona State University, IES Abroad