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Personal Identity

Gender
As gender-based treatment in a foreign culture may differ significantly from your native culture, be aware that it can affect your experience abroad. For women, concerns include sexual harassment, safety and social expectations. To avoid problems, it is important to understand the roles of the sexes in the culture in which you are living. Observe how the host country’s people dress and behave. Also remember at all times that what may be appropriate or friendly behavior in the U.S. may bring you unwanted, even dangerous, attention in another culture.

Race, Ethnicity and Class
Be aware that because of your race or ethnicity, you may be accorded different privileges or experience different barriers abroad than those you experience at home. Different cultures define race and ethnicity differently, create different categories and expect different things of people within these categories. The same with class: different cultures have different ideas and perceptions about class, which can also affect your experience abroad. In certain contexts, working class Americans may be considered rich, while in others, upper-middle class Americans may be considered poor. Consider where your program is located, especially in a city: is it in an affluent or middle-class neighborhood? Where you will be living? Once you arrive at your destination, take cues from your surroundings and, as you go about your every day rountines, determine what is appropriate and prudent.

Sexual Orientation
Depending on your sexual orientation you may be granted different privileges or encounter different challenges abroad than at home. Since many ideas we have about sexual orientation and sexuality are culturally based, students need to be aware of how this will affect their relationships with host nationals, cultural adjustment and the overall study abroad experience. For information regarding sexual orientation issues in countries outside the US, check out NAFSA’s Association of International Educator’s LesBiGay Special Interest Group.

Disability
Travel is always a challenge to a person's problem-solving abilities; this is no different for a person with a disability. While overseas, people with disabilities will likely find some things inaccessible, but preparation and persistence can help. Mobility International USA (phone/TTY: 541-343-1284) is anexcellent resource on travel for people with physical disabilities.

For more information and tips of dealing with cultural differences consult the Study Abroad Handbook provided by your study abroad program provider.