Study Away Identities Resources

The Wang Center for Global and Community Engaged Education values the ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, genders and sexual identities of PLU faculty, staff and students. We aim to provide support, guidance and resources so that all community members are aware of and have equal access to the benefits of study away and other global opportunities. We are here to support you throughout the study away process.

Students of Color

From Diversity Abroad: Minority & Students of Color Abroad

In the U.S. you might be classified by your ethnicity, but abroad, you may be identified first as an American. The people you meet will likely have an opinion about the U.S., and may be eager to tell you what they think, positive or negative.

Whether or not people identify you as an American, they may make assumptions based on your physical appearance. Many people you encounter abroad will show a sincere interest in your culture. There may be people who stare at you or who are eager to touch your hair or your skin. Others may ask insensitive questions about your cultural heritage, physical features, or national origins. If you are abroad in an area where people have had little or no contact with minority students, people tend to 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 and your culture and someone who has bad intentions. You may find yourself in some uncomfortable situations, and always remember to put your safety first.

Questions to Ask for Students of Color:

  • 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 should 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 of Color:

  • 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.

Resources:

Student Experiences:

Students with Disabilities

PLU Office of Accessibility & Accommodation Study Away page

From Diversity Abroad:

Every country has a different attitude towards people with disabilities. For example, in the U.S., independence is highly valued, but in some other countries, people assume that those with disabilities want or need help.

Once you’ve been accepted into a program and if you are willing to disclose your disability, talk with your study abroad advisor or program director. Find out more about how people with disabilities are perceived in your host country. This will help you know what to expect in terms of discrimination as well as accessibility abroad.

Remember that your host country’s attitudes towards people with disabilities may be drastically different from what you’re used to in the U.S. You might see this in the way people treat you and in the kinds of resources available to you abroad.

Don’t let these challenges dissuade you from studying abroad. By living in another country, you’ll gain a new perspective on how other cultures treat people with disabilities. Your experiences abroad will help you grow and give you an appreciation of everything you have at home.

Must Ask Questions for Students with Disabilities:

  • How are people with my disability viewed abroad?
  • How should I respond if people give me unsolicited help?
  • Am I willing to disclose my disability to others?
  • How accessible are places in my host country?
  • Will my disability prevent me from participating in certain excursions because of inaccessibility?

Tips for Students with Disabilities:

  • Talk with other students with disabilities and learn about their experiences abroad.
  • Let your counselor or program director know about your disability, if you are comfortable doing so, so that as many accommodations as possible can be made.
  • Keep in mind that places abroad may not be as accessible as you are used to.
  • Remember that people with disabilities may be treated differently than you are accustomed to. Research before you go so you have some idea of what to expect.
  • Be flexible and think creatively about how you can accommodate your disability abroad.

Important Resource: Mobility International USA (MIUSA) supports US students with disabilities going abroad, among other things. They have fantastic resources that you should look into, and are available to answer individual questions you may have.

Funding Resource: IES Abroad (a study away provider organization that PLU partners with) offers Disability Grants for students with disabilities who anticipate significant additional costs associated with making their study away experience accessible to them. (Search for study away programs here to find out which IES Abroad programs are available to PLU students)

Student Experiences:

LGBTQIA+ Students

From Diversity Abroad: LGBTQ+ Students Abroad

If you are an LGBTQIA+ student, it is important to understand that being out while you are abroad can affect your experiences. Some countries and cultures are open and accepting of LGBTQIA+ people, and same sex marriage is even legal in some countries. However, you may encounter stares or even hostility in other places where homosexuality is against the law.

Depending on where you go, openly displaying affection for your same-sex partner may put your physical safety at risk. If you will be staying with a host family, discuss with your study abroad advisor or program director whether or not you should come out to your host family.

Before you go abroad, find out what kinds of legal rights LGBTQIA+ persons have in your host country. For example, in some countries, homosexuality is illegal. You’ll also want to research what kinds of behavior are appropriate for friendship and dating. Two people of the same gender kissing or holding hands often has a different meaning abroad, so it’s important to recognize that this does not necessarily reflect a romantic relationship.

No matter where you go, you will encounter different ideologies and will have to adapt to different customs while you are abroad. Some students find it necessary to hide their sexual orientation for safety reasons, while others feel free to express their sexual identity openly. In addition, discussing sexuality is taboo in some cultures, while in others it is acceptable.

Be informed and be aware of the attitudes, customs, and laws of your host country. Confide in people who you can trust, and establish a healthy relationship with others who can support you, help you feel safe, and make sure you have a rewarding experience abroad.

Must Ask Questions for LGBTQIA+ Students:

  • What are the laws regarding homosexuality and gender identity in my host country?
  • Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad? Should I come out to my host family?
  • What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
  • What kinds of LGBTQIA+ resources are there in my host country?
  • What is the LGBTQIA+ population like in my host country? How visible and large is it? How do they dress, behave, etc.?

Tips for LGBTQIA+ Students:

  • Put your safety first.
  • Before you leave, familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of your host country.
  • Research whether or not talking about sexuality is taboo.
  • Research the terms and definitions used in your host country to talk about LGBTQ+ issues.
  • Find a support network abroad.

Resources: (See also Gender Identity Resources below)

Student Experiences

Gender Identity

Resources for Trans and Nonbinary Students: (See also LGTBTQIA+ Resource Section Above)

Student Stories:

 

From Diversity Abroad: Women Going Abroad

Being a woman abroad can be an eye-opening experience, because every culture has a different attitude towards women. Before and during your trip, find out about your host country’s cultural values and behaviors regarding women.

Across many countries, traditional gender roles often inform how women are expected to act, dress, and even speak to others. What might be perceived as common behavior for women in the U.S. may be misinterpreted in other countries.

For example, how does religion play a role in how women are expected to dress? Can smiling or making direct eye contact with strangers imply something more than just a friendly gesture? If men stare and catcall while you walk down the street, how do you react?

Sometimes, what is considered “acceptable behavior” for women in the U.S. has sexual connotations in other cultures, so it’s important to talk with other women who have been to your host country to know what type of behavior is most culturally appropriate.

You will also want to find out what the local attitudes are towards American women. There is a preconception abroad that American women are “easy” or “loose.” If you are thinking about being sexually active abroad, inform yourself about STD prevention, birth control, and safe sex practices in that country. In addition, how is sex outside of marriage perceived? Do the locals shun women who have sex outside of marriage?

You may become frustrated with local behaviors and attitudes towards women, especially if you feel it prevents you from being yourself. This is understandable when experiencing another culture. To avoid unwanted attention, dress and act like the local women. This can be a great opportunity to befriend local women to learn directly from them about ways to dress or act as they do.

Throughout your trip, remember to put your safety first and always be aware of your surroundings. By observing the locals, you’ll learn about gender roles in another culture. You can also use resources like our Diversity Abroad Destination Guides to help you prepare for your experience abroad.

Must Ask 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.

Student Stories (IFSA Butler)

Religious Identity

From Diversity Abroad: Religious Diversity Abroad

Religion plays a role in many cultures around the world. Whether you practice a religion or not, going abroad exposes you to different belief systems, which gives you an opportunity to learn more about your host country’s culture. Do your best to understand the majority religion being practiced in your host country, especially if it is one you are largely unfamiliar with.

It is a good idea to research religion in your host country before you go abroad. Maybe you’re used to being part of the religious majority at home, but will be part of the religious minority abroad. If you are planning to practice your religion abroad, ask locals or your program staff to see if there are any places where you can worship safely. Even if you don’t practice a religion yourself, many on your program may. It can be helpful to find ways to support your peers, and to understand how to be an ally for them while you’re abroad. You’ll also want to find out what degree of religious tolerance there is in your host country.

By going abroad, you’ll gain a new perspective on religions as they are practiced around the world. You’ll return home with an increased familiarity with other belief systems and a greater respect for them.

Must Ask 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?
  • What are ways I can respect the religion in my host country and participate in cultural events, even if I don’t practice that religion?

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, especially if you are living with a host family.
  • 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.

Resources:

Student Experiences:

Heritage Seeking Students

From Diversity Abroad: Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad

For many ethnic minority students, learning about their heritage is very important. Going abroad presents these students with an opportunity to connect and learn about their ancestral history and culture firsthand. These students, called “heritage seekers”, pursue study abroad in the country where their families come from “not because it is unfamiliar and new, but rather because it is somewhat familiar.”

For these students, choosing to study in their homeland can be an overwhelming and emotional experience. Some heritage seekers have returned from programs feeling more connected to their ancestral land and culture, while others return feeling more associated and appreciative of their American roots.

Heritage seekers preparing to go abroad should be aware that many of the ideas and presumptions that they have about their host country will be challenged. One of the best things heritage learners can do is to enter the country with an open mind. Heritage students should be prepared for the possibility of being accepted by the local community in the home country because of shared ethnic ties, but also being viewed as an outsider because of cultural differences and national identity. In either scenario, heritage learners will learn more about themselves and how they identify with others.

Must Ask Questions for Heritage Students

  • How will I be perceived in my home country?
  • Will I be accepted in my home country?
  • How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
  • Am I used to being part of the minority at home? How will it be to be a part of the majority abroad?
  • Will there be other heritage students in my program?

Tips for Heritage Students

  • Remember although there is an ethnic affiliation between you and the people in your home country, there are many cultural differences and you might not be accepted as one of their own.
  • Dressing and acting like the locals can make you stand out less.
  • Research the customs and culture of your home country. There might be great differences between what you think you know about the home country based on how you were raised and what it is actually like.
  • Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity.
  • Learn more about other heritage students’ experiences abroad. For example, you can talk to other heritage students who have studied abroad or find information online.

Many heritage students develop a deeper understanding of their identity while abroad in their home country.

Student Perspectives:

First Generation Students

From Diversity Abroad: First Generation Students Traveling Abroad

As a first generation college student, your focus on college may be to simply navigate what it means to be successful in college. There’s a good chance that going abroad was never part of your vision for what this success looks like, and that’s okay. However, there are so many benefits to studying abroad that will ultimately make you a stronger candidate for opportunities after you graduate. In preparing for study abroad, here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the process:

Talk to Your Advisors and Fellow Students: When preparing to study abroad, seek advice from people at your current university or college. First, make appointments to speak with your advisors, specifically in study abroad, academic advising and financial aid. If you have a study abroad office at your campus, make an appointment to talk with them and fully understand what programs are available to you. You should also connect with your academic advisors to figure out which courses enable you to earn credits towards your major or degree. And of course, make an appointment to talk with the financial aid office. Doing this will help you realize how much of your financial aid package can be used to go abroad, which will determine how much you may be expected to pay out of pocket.

In addition, talk to students who have already studied abroad. They can give you firsthand advice about the process of living abroad, and will give you the most truthful answers you could want. If you don’t know anyone who has studied abroad, ask your advisors to connect you with someone who has recently gone abroad through your campus. You can also use the Diversity Abroad Community Forums to post any questions you have, or read our Alumni Stories to find a student whose identities and experiences mirror yours.

Do Your Research: Do as much research as possible. Speaking with advisors and other study abroad alumni is a great start, but take the time to look into your options to ensure you make the best decision. DiversityAbroad.com Destination Guides are a great resource where you can start learning about opportunities, best practices, and better understand what your experience abroad may be like.

Find Support: Making the decision to go abroad, especially if no one you know before you has done it, can be daunting. Your family and friends may not understand your motivations, or may even think it’s a “vacation”! It’s important to find people in your life who support your decision to go abroad, whether that support comes from friends, family, mentors, or even other students in your study abroad cohort. Having people in your life who understand and respect your decision to go abroad can help you feel more comfortable, and can help you ease into your study abroad program more smoothly.

Resources:

Student Experiences:

Country Specific Resources
Austria

From Diversity Abroad:

Because the majority of the population is Austrian, students of color may feel or be treated as “other”. These students may face racial stereotypes, however Austria overall is a country that promotes multiculturalism.

Although the vast majority (91.1%) of Austrians are of Austrian descent, the country has large Eastern European and Turkish communities, particularly in its urban areas. Due to the homogenous nature of Austria, students of color may feel or be treated as “other”. These students may face racial stereotypes, however Austria overall is a country that promotes multiculturalism. Students of color may be one of few minority members within their program, and thus work and live with individuals who have limited understanding of their backgrounds. Men and women of color have noted that, as a result of being an “other” in Austrian society, they are saddled with racial stereotypes that result in excessive curiosity or eroticization, as most sex workers are foreigners. The experience of U.S. students of color is likely to be fairly different than that of African or Middle Eastern immigrants to Austria, whose national origins may incur them additional stigma.
Austria is considered to be a moderate to populist country when dealing with gay rights. A strong LGBTQIA+ scene exists in Vienna and most major cities, but the rest of Austria remains relatively homophobic compared to its European counterparts. Legally Austria recognizes same-sex registered partnerships and the equal treatment of gay people in the work place, but LGBTQIA+ rights groups point out that they have a long way to go before equality.
Austria ranked 57th (out of 144 countries) in the 2017 Global Gender Gap Index conducted by the World Economic Forum. Women enjoy the same legal rights as men in Austria. However, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women. Recent data from the PCW Women in Work Index, which rates countries based on equal pay and access to job markets, reveals that Austria is one of the worst performing countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it comes to equality for women. Although Austria’s separate gender roles model has provided a popular functional system in years past, many see it as a modern constraint. The “homemaker/ breadwinner” family model is still dominant in Austria and western Germany but is slowly changing.
Students with disabilities who study abroad in Austria will find a range of services and accommodations. Austria offers services for people who are mobility, sight, or hearing impaired including advice centers, transport services, and travel aid and itineraries. Universities may offer necessary services to accommodate hearing and sight impaired students. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in several sectors or the provision of other state services. The government not only provides programmatic services and increased access to information for those with disabilities but also effectively enforces applicable laws.
Students of most religions can expect to find a variety of places of worship in the larger cities of Austria, especially Vienna. As Catholics account for about 74% of the population, Catholic churches can be found across the country. Minority religious groups, however, are concentrated in the bigger cities, and students should keep this in mind. Muslim and Orthodox communities have increased in recent years because of a rise in immigration. Anti-muslim sentiments have been felt by Austria’s muslim immigrants. They have felt unwelcomed, experienced racism in public and mosques and businesses belonging to Muslims have been vandalized. The largest Jewish community is in Vienna. Many of the Jews in Austria today immigrated in waves from the Soviet Union first during the postwar period, then during the 1950’s and again after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

Austria Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)

Australia

From Diversity Abroad:

If you’re searching for adventure, outdoor activities, a diverse landscape and population, you will find all this and more in the land down under. Australia is a vast land of cosmopolitan cities and endless wilderness. Many United States students choose to study abroad in Australia because English is the official language, its universities are highly-ranked, and the higher education system gives students opportunities to conduct independent research.

Australia’s unique history has shaped the diversity of its peoples, and the current state of diversity and inclusion in the country. Australia’s population of about 23.4 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. The country was colonized by the British and has experienced immigration from many different countries and cultures. Australia is home to a diverse Indigenous population; however most of the leadership positions in the country are held by people of European descent.

Australia is generally accepting of people of various cultures and ethnicities. Students of color should be aware that Australia is over 92% white. You may experience stares simply because people are not used to seeing many people of color. Australia has a history rooted in colonialism, and this has had a lasting impact on the experiences of indigenous people of color.
Although Australia is a popular study abroad destination for American students, LGBTQIA+ students should be aware that there is still some discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Over 200 languages are spoken in Australia. 21% of the population reports speaking a language other than English. Of these, almost 64,800 people reported speaking an Indigenous language.
Women may experience catcalling in urban areas in Australia, and should also be aware of pickpocketing. Despite these concerns, taking reasonable precautions should ensure safety while studying abroad. You should not anticipate any more trouble than you would in the typical American urban environment.

As an American student, you will likely experience warm hospitality and there is a good chance many Australians will ask you multiple questions about the state of political affairs and immigration in the United States. You may have varying experiences based on your identities.

Christianity is the primary religion practiced in Australia. Christian students will have no problem finding faith communities. Students that practice Islam will find small, but growing numbers of followers and a number of religious centers to worship in.

Generally, Australia is very accessible with streets, public transportation, facilities and other infrastructure suited to meet the needs of the country’s disabled population. However, students with disabilities should always plan ahead, however, especially for trips to wildlife parks or other outdoor activities.

 

Student Experiences:

Australia Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)

China

From Diversity Abroad:

Although China is ethnically diverse, it is highly racially homogenous. Additionally, some contend that China has no problem with racism, but to not acknowledge race creates an issue with naming mistreatment or inequality. Outside of China’s more populous, global cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, many Chinese are unaccustomed to Westerners of any race. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blonde hair and blue eyes.

In general, the people of China are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners. Members of the community in which students however, will live may display a range of reactions to differences that students present. Almost universally, the only students of color on Chinese campuses are other study abroad students. A student of color may be the only non-white person in their class or friend group, or may be working and living with individuals with limited experience or understanding of their background.

China is still in many ways a very patriarchal society and significant misogyny exists in professional and academic settings. More than 90% of female graduates have encountered gender discrimination in the job search process. Also, women make up only 35% of the urban Chinese work force.
Although most Chinese do not practice a religion, the majority of religious Chinese are either Buddhists or Confucianists. Northwest China, is home to a Muslim minority and a number of Islamic mosques. There are also practicing Christians and churches in China, although you will find most services conducted in Chinese. Students of faith who study abroad in China should be aware that it’s generally frowned upon for professionals to be overtly religious.
In general, while China may not explicitly oppose LGBTQ identities, the country socially holds prejudice and stigma toward these groups. These beliefs lie largely among the older generation and conservative groups, as young people are generally more accepting of these identities, relationships and expression.
In China, as in other parts of the world, there are often prejudicial attitudes towards individuals with various physical, emotional or learning challenges. Due to these beliefs, inadequate medical care and stigmatization often remain a common problem. The national government has established laws protecting the rights of those experiencing disabilities, but there is slow progress in regard to development of practices, care and perception for these groups.

Student Experiences:

Resources:

Costa Rica

From Diversity Abroad:

Costa Rica is the most popular location for American students studying abroad in Latin America; it is well-known for being a safe, popular destination that has a very low rate of getting involved in foreign issues. Costa Rica is a friendly nation, open to those wishing to study there, plus it offers many different academic options and social options to attract others.

Overall, the country is well-known to be open to others, although the experiences they may have can be different than back home, whether in America or otherwise. Generally, while the nation is generally welcoming, it is important to remember some of its conservative nature and history, due to religion, which may impact some students’ identities while there.

In Costa Rica, there has been many issues of varying degrees with immigration in the country; Costa Rica is known to be a friendly nation to immigrants, but it has dealt with an influx of immigrants attempting to move north. However, the immigrants are getting stuck in Costa Rica, due to not being allowed to enter Nicaragua, which has led to a strain on some resources in the country.

One thing to note, however, is that Costa Rica is still trying to help immigrants as much as possible and does not have any plans to criminalize immigrants, especially as many of them are fleeing due to violence or drug-related problems in their home countries.

 

Student Experiences:

Denmark

From Diversity Abroad:
Denmark is mostly inhabited by ethnic Danes and a homogenous country. There has been an increase in immigration in recent years. This has been met with resistance from some locals, with the Danish People’s Party – an anti-immigration party – seeing increasing popularity and growing into the third largest political party in Denmark. Short-term travelers may not feel the effects of this tension, as Danes are known to be a visitor friendly country. However, students on longer-term stays may be viewed with hostility, though this attitude certainly is not representative of all Danes.
Law in Denmark prohibits discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions, in 1989. According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Danish law is generally inclusive and the society is considered to be very comfortable with homosexuality. Denmark is known as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and was one of the first to embrace same-sex marriage and include LGBTQIA+ people in anti-discrimination laws. Urban centers will have more openly gay people than rural areas, but as a whole, the country is considered to be extremely tolerant.
Denmark is thought to be a very safe country, although ‘common sense’ safety precautions should be followed, especially by single women. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Although the law provides criminal penalties of imprisonment for rape many consider it be widely underreported throughout the kingdom. “Mitigating circumstances” such as marriage can in some cases reduce imprisonment to four years for rape. Faroese and Greenlandic law criminalizes rape but reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in several sectors or the provision of other state services. The government not only mandates access by persons with disabilities to government buildings, education, information, and communications but also effectively enforces these provisions. Scandinavia seeks to lead the world in disability amenities. Denmark in particular has a program called “Accessibility for All”. This program classifies different hotels and attractions into several different accessibility groups. Generally speaking, Denmark is largely wheelchair accessible.
While Denmark has an officially designated religion (Lutheran), most Danes consider themselves to be agnostic and there has been an increase in immigrants in recent years, most of whom are Muslim. The constitution declares the ELC as the Established Church, which shall receive state support and to which the reigning monarch must belong.

France

From Diversity Abroad:

France is the fourth most popular destination for students from the United States—16,462 students participated in a global program in France in the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition to these numbers, many young people also have meaningful travel experiences in France through research, fellowships, and teaching opportunities. Many institutions of higher education in France are well-respected, and France has particularly strong programs in business, the arts and sciences. There are also many opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the French language. Students interested in a global experience in France have a large number of programs to choose from that span a range of disciplines, and there is a wealth of culture and history to explore across the country.

France does not collect demographic information related to race and ethnicity in its censuses, so it is difficult to estimate the racial and ethnic diversity in the country. In addition, France’s roots as a republic emphasizes equality rather than equity, meaning that many French citizens believe in treating everybody the same. This can result in tension when policies are seemingly neutral, but have a negative impact on marginalized communities.

Though France is generally considered to be welcoming to travelers from diverse backgrounds, recent terrorist attacks and rises in nationalism in several parts of Europe are affecting the social climate in France. There are also increases in immigration, particularly from North Africa, and resulting tensions related to who gets to be considered “French” and anti-immigrant sentiments.

Many of the French do not consider their country to be racist. Several U.S. travelers noted that French citizens believe that they do not have the same problems as the United States when it comes to race. However, several Americans of color have shared that France’s absence of conversation about racial tensions doesn’t mean that instances of discrimination or harrassment are nonexistant. Others have said that the majority of their interactions with locals have been positive. While U.S. students of color should not be overly concerned about experiencing racial hostility in France, it is important to acknowledge that racial tension does exist in France, especially in the wake of terrorist attacks in the past few years.

In comparison to other European countries, France isn’t considered to be a significant source of emigration. The largest period of emigration in France was in the 17th century, where about 400,000 Huguenots left due to religious persecution, and many of these individuals relocated to North America (Québec and Louisiana). Today, small numbers of French continue to emigrate to Canada and parts of Latin America.

On the other hand, there has been substantial immigration to France since the early 1800s. It is estimated that there are around 6 million immigrants living in France, which is around 9% of the total population. Many of these individuals come from other parts of the European Union, North Africa and Central Africa. The largest proportions of immigrants live in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Following recent attacks in France, there has been a heightened political emphasis on immigration policy and an increased anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalism from parts of the population. These perceptions are often directed towards the Muslim community, particularly those form North Africa. Students who practice Islam should be aware of increasing Islamophobia in France. While France is generally a liberal country with laws designed to protect marginalized populations from discrimination, not everyone shares these ideals. This information may cause concern, but it is important to note that the French public’s perceptions of immigrants are very similar to those of the U.S. public, with more than half of the respondents recognizing the strengths that immigrants bring to their new countries.

In general, France is considered to be tolerant and to uphold LGBTQ rights. Paris is known for being historically friendly to the LGBTQ community, and there are several gay districts in the city. Marriage equality is recognized, anti-discrimination laws are in place and French people are expressing increasingly tolerant views. However, recent surveys have found that there are still many clichés and stereotypes held by the French in relation to LGBTQ individuals. While some individuals may experience harassment and there have been a few highly publicized attacks on gay men, France is experiencing an overall decline in homophobia and transphobia.

While France is a relatively safe destination for women, the country does lag behind others in regards to representation in the workforce and wages. France has a reputation of progressive views of femininity and female sexuality, but some travelers find that these views relate primarily to the kinds of feminisms that also benefit men. The #metoo movement has gained some traction in France as well, and it has prompted some governmental reevaluation of responses to sexual harassment and violence.

While France has a strong Roman Catholic background, the French Revolution included a push to “dechristianize” France, and set the foundation for the separation of church and state. In 1905, France passed laws to establish secularism and freedom of thought and religious belief, and many French do not have a religious affiliation. After Christianity, the most commonly practiced religions are Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism.
A French law passed in 1991 requires that new buildings with public or community spaces are accessible for people with disabilities. However, there are many existing buildings and transportation systems that do not yet meet these requirements, despite pressure from activists and new laws passed in 2005. Many sidewalks are narrow and uneven, and cobblestone streets can complicate accessibility. If you have mobility-related accessibility needs, major tourist areas will have the most accessible facilities. France also has several adapted activities designed to meet the needs of visitors with physical disabilities.
Resources

Germany

From Diversity Abroad:

Germany is the fifth most popular destination for students from the United States—12,585 students participated in a global program in Germany in the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition to these numbers, many young people also have meaningful travel experiences in Germany through research, fellowships, and teaching opportunities, and there are several scholarships specific to Germany that can fund experiences like these. Many German institutions of higher education are well-respected, and the government’s investment in public education means that there is a wide variety of disciplines to choose from in planning a global program.

Many visitors to Germany believe that the average German is well-meaning when it comes to embracing racial and ethnic diversity. However, there is a significant lack of representation of people of color in high-ranking professions, and race and ethnicity aren’t always part of the German conversation about diversity. In addition, there are ongoing debates about cultural diversity and whether or not immigrants should assimilate to German traditions. The good news is that the younger generation in Germany is much more in favor of two-sided cultural exchange. While U.S. students of color should not be overly concerned about experiencing racial hostility in Germany, it is important to acknowledge that racial tension does exist in Germany.

Following World War II, Germany no longer collects demographic information related to race. Instead, it is now collected by nationality, which can lead to challenges in assessing the country’s ethnic diversity. Black and Asian Germans often express frustration at white Germans’ questions about where they are from. In addition, visitors to Germany should be aware of increasing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Generally, there are also regional differences in Germans’ tolerance for difference, and most travelers find western Germany to be more accepting of difference than eastern Germany. This information does not define what your experience in Germany will be like, but it can be helpful context for you in planning your travels.

Though Germany is generally considered to be welcoming to travelers from diverse backgrounds, rises in nationalism in several parts of Europe are affecting the social climate in Germany. There are also increases in immigration, particularly from North Africa and the Middle East resulting in anti-immigrant sentiments. In addition, Germany once upheld a policy where citizenship could only come from “right of blood” (having a German parent or parents). This means that there are lingering anti-immigrant sentiments surrounding who gets to be considered “German.”

Following World War II, Germany has been a consistently popular destination for immigrants. Initially, migration was primarily between West and East Germany, and the majority of the inbound population was ethnically German or from other parts of Europe. After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, Germany experienced a labor crisis, and instituted a guest worker program to fill empty jobs. While this policy was initially designed with the intent for workers to return to their home country, many of the guest workers gained residency and brought their families. The majority of the people who came to Germany as a result of this program were from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece and former Yugoslavia. Despite the increase in resident workers, Germany maintained a policy of “ius sanguinis” (or “right of blood”), which meant that the vast majority of the guest workers and their families were not granted citizenship.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1990s, there was a significant increase in asylum seekers to Germany, mostly from continental Europe. This sparked some xenophobia and violence against those perceived to be foreigners. Near the end of the decade, a change in government led to political leaders declaring Germany to be a country of immigrants, and helped shape Germany’s place as one of the more immigration-friendly countries in Europe and the development of integration policies.

Most recently, Germany admitted over one million refugees in 2015, the majority of whom were from North Africa and the Middle East. The German economy continued to thrive, which helped with the degree of acceptance of newcomers, but despite this, there are some rising political tensions about the future of immigration to Germany. Like other countries in Europe, there are rising populist and xenophobic beliefs in Germany, and conversations about what it means to be German are increasing. Though the majority of Germans continue to value immigrants’ contributions to German culture, events both in Germany and around the world are challenging some of these views.

Germany is considered the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation—although Christianity is the most practiced religion, most German Christians are not Catholic. There is also a growing Muslim population, stemming both from the Turkish population in Germany and immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. Germany is also careful to acknowledge its responsibility to the Jewish community following World War II, and Germany now has one of the largest Jewish populations in Western Europe. About 30% of Germans profess no religious faith at all. Students who practice Christianity, Islam and Judaism should be able to find places of worship in Germany’s larger cities, as well as halal and kosher meal options.

Though Germany does not have a public ban on the burqa, niqab or other religiously symbolic clothing, students who wear these items may face additional scrutiny and bias in Germany. If you practice Islam, you should also be aware of the growing Islamophobia due to immigration of refugees fleeing armed conflict in the Middle East. In 2017, Germany began collecting statistics on anti-Muslim crimes, and while physical violence is rare, other forms of discrimination are more common. In addition, there is growing anti-Semitism in parts of the country as populist movements gain traction. Both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tends to be more prevalent in the east of Germany, but we encourage you to do additional research related to your identities prior to your travels. While many students who practice these religions visit Germany with minimal challenges, it is important to be aware of potential issues that you may face.

Students who practice Islam should be aware of the heightening Islamophobia in the region due to negative perceptions toward immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. As a result, some may experience stares, xenophobic remarks and possible harassment. Students who practice Judaism should also be aware of increasing anti-Semitism. In the event that you are in a situation where you feel your safety is at risk, leave the scene, if possible. Reach out to your trusted points of contact, respective embassy or local emergency personnel to notify them of the situation and your location. This may include your program leaders, professors and friends.

While LGBTQ+ visitors can expect a positive experience in Germany, students should be aware of some increasing homophobic and transphobic rhetoric following the legalization of same-sex marriage. These beliefs are more common in more rural areas and in eastern parts of Germany. It can be helpful to conduct additional research into the different parts of the country you intend to visit in order to prepare for your stay, especially if you plan to visit more rural areas.
Generally, cities like Berlin are modern and reasonably accessible for people with disabilities. Many German cities experienced heavy bombing during World War II, which means that there are fewer cobblestone streets than in other parts of Europe. In addition, public transportation options are generally accessible—most of the trams and buses on rotation are now accessible. Though some buildings and transportation options are not as accommodating as those in the United States, accessibility in German cities tends to be fairly advanced by European standards. The German government developed accessibility criteria for businesses and tourism destinations, which helps visitors assess how well a destination can accommodate their needs. There are also online resources that detail accessible activities, and resources for visitors to larger cities (Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich) that list accessible hotels, attractions, restaurants and tours.

Germany Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)

Italy

From Diversity Abroad:

Although Italy is generally considered a welcoming country, depending on your identity, your experience may be affected by the status of Diversity & Inclusion in the country. With the large increase in North African immigration into Italy, tensions between Italians and immigrant groups have heightened. Unwelcoming attitudes against non-European people have also increased. When it comes to U.S. students, students of color often report that in Italy what first stands out is the fact that they are American, before it is acknowledged that they are a person of color.

Italy tends to be a more socially conservative country, especially in the North. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church affects some of the social policies in the country. For example, same-sex civil unions have been legal in Italy since 2006; however, same-sex marriage, is still not legal. While there is widespread tolerance of homosexuality in Italy, the prominence of Catholicism in Italy has meant that homosexuality is treated as civil, but not criminal, deviance. Additionally, the society remains largely patriarchal and street harassment (cat-calling) of women by men is not uncommon.

The Italian Roma community is one of the largest ethnic minorities in the country. Due to the lack of disaggregated data the size of the community remains uncertain, with Council of Europe estimates of between 120,000 and 180,000. A significant proportion do not have Italian citizenship.

Italy has historically been an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but this is now changing as significant numbers of Italians now self-identify as practicing or atheists. Among Italian citizens, 3.5 per cent of the population are estimated to belong to religious minorities, including a range of non-Catholic Christians denominations.

Recently, Italy ranked 82 on the global index of equitable opportunity for women according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report representing a significant lag behind other Westernized countries. As a country, there are disparities women face including lack of representation in leadership roles, unequal pay in “blue collar” positions and currently, the #metoo movement is making a wave in some Italian cities.
Italy is a modern country that has significant infrastructure in place for students with physical disabilities. Even at historic attractions, student will find ramps and entrances specifically for use by the disabled. However, Italy is known for its old world layout and architecture, which may increase the challenge level for students with physical disabilities. Students with mobile disabilities should only take standard precautions such as planning ahead to make sure routes and venues have the necessary accessibility.
Although many Italians do not consider their country to be racist, U.S. perceptions appear to differ. Many U.S. travelers feel that Italy is not, by and large a racist country. However, in discussion boards online, Americans of color tend to have more mixed reviews, with some citing experiences when they encountered discrimination or hostility, while others said that in their experiences in Italy they did not encounter racism.

Student Experiences and Resources

Mexico

Mexico is a very racially mixed country with the majority of the population being mestizo, a mix of Spanish and Amerindian ancestry. Ever since the Spanish conquest, race relations have had a long and complicated history in Mexico. Afro-Mexicans make up just about 1% of Mexico’s total population, about 1.4 million people. The Afro-Mexican population is mostly located in communities in Costa Chica along the county’s southern coast.

You don’t have to break the bank to have an enjoyable and memorable experience in Mexico! Many museums in Mexico have student discounts, even free entrance. This is a great way to take advantage of accessing world-class museums such as The National Museum of Anthropology and the Frida Kahlo museum for low rates. Mexico is also much more affordable than the United States, meals can range from $1-$15 (USD) depending on the place.

Mexico has generally become more concerned with accommodating visitors with special needs. Today, most attractions and facilities across the country will be able to accommodate visitors with disabilities. The rights of disabled people are guaranteed in Mexico’s Constitution, and legislation requires that public buildings and other places be accessible.
Recently, Mexico was ranked 50 on the global index of equitable opportunity for women according to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, coming in just above the United States. Mexico has made significant progress in the achievement of women’s rights and gender. At the federal level, Mexico implemented national laws to ensure women’s and men’s equality; strong gender institutionalism, and increased public resources earmarked for gender equality.
Mexico has made significant strides for LGBTQIA+ rights in its history. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1871, a full 132 years before the U.S. Same-sex marriage is allowed in Mexico City and 12 states (and recognized nationwide). Transgender persons can change their legal gender and name in Mexico City and two states. Though laws favor LGBTQ people, there are still significant obstacles.
Resource: LGBTQ+ Mexico: Travel Safety Tips
The traditional and religious majority in Mexico ascribe to Catholicism – Mexico boasts the second-largest Catholic population in the world and the city of Cholula has 365 churches, either one for each day of the year or one for each pre-Hispanic temple that used to be there. The second-largest denomination is Protestant Christian. There are small populations of Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. A significant portion of the population practice a blend of mythologies, faiths, and traditions.

Student Experiences:

New Zealand

From Diversity Abroad:

Tips for Students of Color Abroad

New Zealand is generally accepting of people of various cultures and ethnicities. Black and Latino students however, should still be aware that New Zealand is about 70% white, and less than 1% Latino/African/Black. You may experience stares simply because people are not used to seeing many people of color. Most native New Zealanders may mistake you for being Fijian or Malaysian because of your darker complexion. New Zealand does have a history rooted in colonialism, so students should be aware of the way race and colorism plays out for indigenous people of color, the Maori.

Tips for LGBTQ+ Students Abroad

New Zealand is accepting of all people, including individuals in the LGBTQIA community. There are several Members of Parliament that belong to the LGBTQIA community and gay rights are protected, including the right to marry. Same sex relationships are even seen as acceptable among the native Maori population. Auckland is considered one of the most “gay-friendly” cities, globally. It is important to realize, though, similar to other western nations, there may be some individuals who are queerphobic.

Tips for Student with Disabilities Abroad

Generally, New Zealand is very accessible with streets, public transportation, facilities and other infrastructure suited to meet the needs of the country’s disabled population. You should not have any major issues with having adequate accommodations. You should always plan ahead, however, especially for trips to wildlife parks or other outdoor activities.

Tips for Religious & Spiritual Students Abroad

Christianity is the primary religion practiced in New Zealand. Christian students will have no problem finding faith communities. Students that practice Islam will find small, but growing numbers of followers and a number of religious centers to worship in. Hinduism and Buddhism are growing rapidly in New Zealand. This is no doubt due to the country’s proximity to Eastern Asia and growing immigration. Muslim students should always be aware of growing Islamophobia, but will generally experience major issues while in New Zealand.

Student Experiences:

New Zealand Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)

South Korea

From Diversity Abroad:
As a student of color, depending on your program, you will more than likely be one of the few minority members within your program and thus will work and live with individuals who have little understanding of the experiences and cultures of students of color. These individuals may not be able to provide you with adequate support. It is best to prepare for the essentials that you may need and/or want in relation to your cultural identity and expression.

Korea is a fairly secular country, with nearly half of Koreans identifying with no major religious groups. The two largest religions in Korea are Christianity, followed by Buddhism. Generally speaking, religious discussions are fairly uncommon in public life, although the country is said to have a high level of religious tolerance and acceptance and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Korean constitution. Traditional Confucian-beliefs as well as Korean Buddhist philosophies are very common in Korea as well, even amongst non-religious people.

Many women travelers who have spent time in South Korea have noted that the country is one of the safest environments they’ve experienced. Some have even reported feeling safer in the larger South Korean cities than in some U.S. cities. There are still cultural norms that women travelers should be aware of. Particularly in rural areas, a patriarchal social structure is very much still in existence. Women traveling alone is considered an oddity and traveling solo may attract some stares.
Generally speaking, most facilities in Korea have been made to be accessible. Larger tourist attractions are accessible by wheelchair and may even offer disability discounts, though this is less often true in smaller organizations. Wheelchair rental is often offered at accessible locations, although proof of identification is required. Major tourist sites and transportation facilities, especially in urban areas, are equipped with ramps as well as accessible restrooms.
While there are no specific laws that discriminate based on sexuality, same-sex marriages are not legally recognized. There is an LGBTQ subculture in larger cities but LGBTQ relationships are not typically openly displayed in public. It is important to note that platonic displays of affection between same-sex friends is very common in Korea.

Student Experiences:

Spain

From Diversity Abroad:

Spain’s government has taken a closer look at the issue of ethnic discrimination in recent years. Despite unsavory reports on the pitch, the government under President Zapatero has focused on integrating Spain’s over 4 million immigrants, many arriving from Eastern Europe, Russia and North Africa. Though government policy may be aimed at restitution, the attitude on the ground may present a somewhat different story for students from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Generally, Spain is very accessible with streets, public transportation, facilities and other infrastructure suited to meet the needs of those with limited physical ability. Instances of discrimination are low as the government effectively enforces laws protecting the disabled populations. You should not have any major issues with having adequate accommodations, but planning ahead with your program leader or host institution will ensure a smooth process, especially for outdoor activities or trips to rural areas.
Gendered and sexual violence is generally low in Spain. And although the government effectively enforces laws against assault, domestic violence, and workplace discrimination we can still see some social disparities, for example, in the workforce in regards to positions of power as well as women’s health rights.
Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, is the primary religion in Spain. Christian students will have no problem finding faith communities. Students that practice Islam will find a growing number of religious centers to worship in.
Although Spain has a very religious and Roman Catholic history, it is considered one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world. Same-sex couples have had the right to marry and adopt for over a decade.

Although Castilian Spanish is the national language and many Spaniards also speak some English, regional dialects are still very pronounced in Spain. Some provinces, such as Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia and the Basque country, have their own dialect as the official language. Despite this language variety, even students with low proficiency levels in Spanish should be able to navigate life in Spain, as there is a robust infrastructure for accommodating international visitors.

The racial and ethnic makeup of Spain is becoming just as diverse as its languages. In 2017, the total number of Spanish Muslims came to 834,000 – a number that rises to around 1.95 million when the additional 1.1 million Muslim migrants are factored in, predominantly from Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal and other countries according to

While the Spanish government does not record statistics on the ethnic and racial background of its population, it records the population of non-citizens in Spain, which in 2018 equaled to 4.7 million, around 10% of the population. Migrants largely come from the following countries: Morocco 769,100, Romania 673,000, UK 240,900, China 215,800, Colombia 165,600, Ecuador 135,000, Bulgaria 123,700, Germany 110,900 and Ukraine 106,800.

Spain has the largest Roma population in Western Europe, numbering approximately 725,00 – 750,000 and there is a very small Jewish community comprising approximately 40,000 people, living mainly in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga as well in the parts of Ceuta and Melilla.

 

Spain Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)

LGBT Travelers in Spain

 

Student experiences:

United Kingdom

From Diversity Abroad:

Tips for African American and Latino Students
Although the United Kingdom has not seen the same rate of immigration as European countries situated on the Mediterranean coast, growing xenophobia is still an issue. Despite this, black and Latino American students will likely be identified as American. While students may still experience instances of racism, and racism certainly exists, you should not expect to have any more problems than you would at home in the U.S.

Tips for Asian American Students
The Asian population in the UK is growing, much like the rest of Western Europe. Despite the growing population, there is still a lack of awareness about Chinese and other Asian cultures. Asian American students studying abroad may experience disrespectful comments and instances of racism and many have been reported by Asian Britons. Although there are prejudice issues need to be addressed, they should not deter you from taking the opportunity to study in the U.K. Despite these issues, Chinatown in London is the hub of Japanese, Thai, and other Asian cultures in the United Kingdom.

Tips for LGBTQ Students
The United Kingdom is considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe when it comes to LGBTQ rights, with the government making strong efforts to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. There are still some shortcomings, however. For example, same-sex marriage is still not legal in Northern Ireland. Also, there are still sporadic crimes against LGBTQ motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity. With this in mind, LGBTQ students should take any usual precautions about their social circle and activities, but should not have major problems while in the U.K. Additionally, with new movements of the intersectionality of religion and the LGBTQIA community, the UK at the forefront of these human rights.

Tips for Students with Disabilities
Generally, the U.K. is very modern and accessible with public transportation, facilities and other infrastructure designed to meet the needs of the disabled population. The government also effectively enforces laws protecting the disabled. Students with disabilities should not have major issues finding adequate accommodations however, planning ahead is always advised, especially for trips to rural areas or outdoor activities. Public transportation in extremely accessible as well.

Tips for Religious Students
Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the U.K., so Christian students will have no problem finding faith communities. Students that practice Islam will find a growing number of religious centers to worship in as the Muslim population continues to increase. There are also small communities, especially in London, of people who practice Hinduism or Buddhism. Muslim students should always be aware of growing Islamophobia, hate speech and violence in Europe. Muslim students should be vigilant, but will generally not experience major issues while in the U.K.

Tips for Women
Gendered violence and sexual violence is generally low in the United Kingdom. The government effectively enforces laws against assault, domestic violence, and workplace discrimination. Women however, may experience catcalling in urban areas, and students and tourist should also be aware of pickpocketing and unwanted advances as trafficking is a growing problem. Despite these concerns, taking reasonable precautions should ensure safety while studying abroad. You should not anticipate any more trouble than the typical American environment.

Student Experiences

England Diversity Resources (IES Abroad)