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Personal Identity

Study Abroad, Cape TownGender

As gender-based norms abroad may differ significantly from your home culture, be aware that it can affect your experience abroad. It is important to understand the role of gender in the culture in which you are living. Observe how the host country’s people dress, behave, and treat members of different sexes. 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 Socio-Economic Status

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. Different cultures have ideas and perceptions about socio-economic status, which may not be the same as those in the US. Consider where your program is located. If it is in a city, are you living in an affluent or middle-class neighborhood? Where is your host university or study abroad program  located? Once you arrive at your destination, take cues from your surroundings and as you go about your everyday routines observe your host culture. For more information on these topics, check out these student resources from Diversity Abroad. 

Sexual Orientation
It is important to be aware of the cultural, legal and social issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity abroad and how they could impact  interactions in your host country. Since many ideas we have about sexual orientation and sexuality can be  culturally based, students need to be aware of how this will affect their relationships with their host culture, 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 Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group


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 may find some things inaccessible, but many countries around the world provide accommodations and assistance for people with a physical disability. Mobility International USA (phone/TTY: 541-343-1284) is an excellent resource on travel for people with physical disabilities.

For more information and tips on how your personal identity can present challenges and opportunities while you are abroad, please visit Diversity Abroad.