Diversity and Inclusion

Topics:

LGBTQ+ Students

LGBTQ+ students successfully study abroad around the world every term. Many of the questions that LGBTQ students need to consider when preparing to study abroad are the same questions that all students need to consider (Where will I find the best academic “fit” for my interests? How will I fund it? What do I most want to get out of my experience?), but given the range of legal and cultural attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people around the world, you should consider the following tips and questions prior to deciding where to study abroad and as you prepare for your experience.

Questions to Ask As You Decide On, and Prepare For, a Study Abroad Destination/Program:

  • How open do I want to be about my sexual orientation and/or gender identity with professors, friends, fellow students, host family, and site staff?
  • How important is it to me to have a community of other sexual/gender identity minority individuals in my location abroad? What expectations do I have of seeking out and finding such a community while I’m abroad?
  • What are my safety needs and perceptions? What resources are available to support LGBTQ people in my destination community?
  • What are the cultural and social attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country, and how might it vary from place to place (for example, between the capital and a smaller town in which I might study, between a university community and a more rural location I might visit)?
  • What is the legal status of same sex behavior and expressions of gender identity in my host country? Are there “public decency”, age of consent, or other laws that might affect me, and how rigorously are they enforced? Are other laws (carrying identification, loitering) selectively applied against people who are or are suspected of being LGBTQ+?
  • Are there other social and cultural norms that intersect with the legal attitude towards LGBTQ+ people – for example, are the LGBTQ+ communities in urban vs. rural areas treated differently, or in “upper class” vs. “poor” neighborhoods in the city? Is there a difference in the attitude of police towards “local” LGBTQ+ vs. LGBTQ+ individuals who are considered “tourists”, and how might that impact me if I am studying in a location where I might be mistaken for a “local” due to my language and/or ethnic and racial heritage?

Things to Consider As You Prepare to Study Abroad:

  • Learn the laws of your host country regarding same sex behavior and expressions of gender identity. You are required to follow the law in your host country. Failure to follow such laws can result in criminal penalties, deportation, and loss of immigration status.
  • Be familiar with local laws and customs so you can make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs, which will be the best fit for you and your needs.
  • Explore LGBTQ+ travel guides, talk with alumni students and research any other possible resources that provide information about the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in your host country. Find out what resources (local support groups, online resources, local information sources such as newsletters and magazines) will be available to you locally at your destination.
  • Learn as much as possible about the context of your host culture regarding gender, sexual identity, and interactions between the sexes. These vary tremendously from culture to culture. Open expressions of sexual orientation may be frowned upon, yet public expressions of friendship between individuals of the same gender may be far more demonstrative than is the case in many parts of the U.S. Similar expressions or behaviors can have entirely different meanings.
  • Find out as much as possible about attitudes and customs to help ensure that you are making informed choices about your own expression of identity and behaviors.

Resources:


NAFSA RainbowSIG
Resource website maintained by LGBTQ+ and allied professionals working in international education throughout the U.S. Includes links to country-specific guides and resources, pre-departure information, and first-person accounts by study abroad alumni.

Diversity Issues in Study Abroad, Brown University
A compilation of first-person accounts by Brown University study abroad students from a variety of backgrounds including LGBTQ+ individuals on issues and experiences related to gender, identity, ethnicity, and race they encountered while abroad.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA)
Country-by-country resource for legal issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community – including legal prohibitions on same-sex relationships, age of consent laws, and entry restrictions for HIV-positive individuals.

OutRight Action International
A U.S. based non-profit organization, which provides country-by-country, up to date information on current decriminalization, discrimination, and other issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community around the world.

LGBTQ Study Abroad Guide
Published by GoAbroad.com, this guide provides LGBTQ+ travelers with an overview of countries around the world with information and tips for LGBTQ+ students looking to study abroad, including a list of scholarships for LGBTQ+ students.

National Center for Transgender Equality – Air Travel Tips
Provides updated information regarding issues that transgender individuals may encounter when traveling. Note that this is primarily about U.S.-based travel although the tips are also broadly applicable to international travel.

Students of Color and Under-served Groups

Students of color and students from under-represented ethnic and racial groups successfully study abroad around the world every term. Many of the questions that under-represented students need to consider when preparing to study abroad are the same questions that all students need to consider (Where will I find the best academic “fit” for my interests? How will I fund my study abroad experience? What do I most want to get out of my experience?), but additional questions and concerns may arise.

You may find it very helpful to talk with alumni from your program and/or your home institution who are from similar backgrounds about their experiences. Check with your study abroad advisor about getting in touch with past participants.

Of course, every student’s experience is unique. Some students find that the issue of race and ethnic identity has a very different impact on their day-to-day lives while abroad than it does while at home; others find that the experiences are very similar. Some students find that they are first and foremost considered “Americans” while abroad, others find that the issue of their race and ethnic identity becomes a regular part of their interactions with locals. Attitudes towards race, ethnic identity and community vary tremendously from country to country as well as from community to community within a country and from individual to individual. The experience of studying in a capital city may be very different from that in a small university town in the same country, and two students in the same program may have very different experiences.

Questions to Ask As You Decide on, and Prepare for, a Study Abroad Destination/Program:

  • What is the current status of race/ethnic relations in this culture? Is there any local community that shares my heritage – and what are my feelings about having or not having such a community available to me? Are there local stereotypes or discrimination regarding individuals of my background that might be similar to or different from what I’ve experienced in the U.S.?
  • What are the implications of studying in a location that is (or is closely linked to) my family’s country of origin? If I choose this experience, how are “heritage” students perceived by the host culture? What expectations do I have of the experience?
  • What are the implications for my experience of studying in a “third” culture (neither related to my heritage nor the U.S.)?

Things to Consider As You Prepare to Study Abroad:

  • Talk with alumni students and research any other possible resources that provide information about the experiences of under-represented students and students of color in your host country.
  • Find out what resources (local community groups, online resources, local information sources such as newsletters and magazines) will be available to you locally at your destination.
  • Learn as much as possible about the context of your host culture regarding issues such as race and ethnicity, race relations, and perceptions of minorities.

Resources:

Diversity Issues in Study Abroad, Brown University
A compilation of first-person accounts by Brown University study abroad students from a variety of backgrounds on issues and experiences related to identity, ethnicity, gender, and race they encountered while abroad.

Información para Padres y Familia
Un recurso para hispanohablantes sobre el proceso y el rol que juega la familia en apoyando su estudiante para estudiar en el extranjero.

Reflections of Asian American Students, NAFSA
A compilation of first-person responses to a survey of Asian American students at Columbia University who studied abroad in a variety of locations.

All Abroad US Student Advice
Student and advisors answers to questions about studying abroad from students of color, mostly from Loyola Marymount University.

Glimpse Study Abroad Acclimation Guide, Race Abroad
Designed for American students of color to address the challenges of reconciling one’s ethnic and national identity while abroad and adapting to different attitudes toward racial difference and/or different kinds of prejudice.

Students with Disabilities

Study abroad affords an opportunity to develop communication, language, and cross-cultural adaptation skills and makes you more competitive for employment, along with providing the adventure and challenge of exploring different places and being exposed to another culture. Students with disabilities can and do successfully study abroad every term. The Study Abroad Office will work to reasonably accommodate students with disabilities on our programs. However, your active role in disclosing your disability-related needs far in advance will be key to your success.

Disclose your disability-related request as far in advance as possible. Even if you don’t think that you’ll need accommodations while abroad, it is always best to discuss your study abroad plans with your home campus disabilities office. Since standard conveniences in the U.S. may not be available or accessible in other countries, your disabilities office on campus, in coordination with your study abroad office and/or third-party provider, can help you prepare and plan accordingly.

When Should I Begin?

Advance planning is essential, since it takes time to communicate with staff abroad and determine the feasibility of accommodations. Begin planning at least one year before the date you wish to study abroad. Start by talking to organizations both on campus and off to learn more. Campus disability support offices and disability groups both in the U.S. and abroad can advise you on how to identify your needs, and request accommodations. Describe your specific needs and current adaptations, and be sure to ask about every aspect of the program: arrival, orientation, living accommodations, classes, excursions, and assistive technology. Reasonable accommodations are discussed on a case-by-case basis with study abroad advisers and program staff.

How Do I Apply?

Refer to the “How to Apply” section of our website. Because determining what accommodations may be possible involves planning and coordination between your disability services office, WOU study abroad office, and staff in the participating program abroad office, you are encouraged to begin your advising and application process at least one year prior to your projected term abroad.

Notify your study abroad advisor and provide necessary documentation of your approved accommodations on campus if applicable. Note that accommodations cannot be researched or arranged until you have discussed your disabilities and needed accommodations with your study abroad advisor.

We strongly recommend that you apply early. Some requests for reasonable accommodation will require several months to be considered or arranged, so you should apply well in advance of program application deadlines to ensure the study abroad office can fully consider the options available for your request. Students who disclose needs at the last minute, or who require accommodations that cannot be made available in the host country, may be advised to postpone participation.

What Kinds of Accommodations Can I Expect to Receive Abroad?

The United States is a world leader in the area of equal access for persons with disabilities. Many other countries are becoming more aware of the needs of the disability community but may not have the same level of access within their infrastructure. An important part of your study abroad experience will include learning how the host country defines and responds to needs of persons with disabilities according to their culture. WOU cannot alter systems, architecture, transportation, or laws in other countries, nor duplicate your home campus; we cannot guarantee that facilities and/or support services will be available at each location abroad in the same range and quality as on your home campus. However, meeting with your disability office on campus and providing documentation of your disability to the Study Abroad Office is the first step to receiving assistance for your accommodation needs abroad.

What Should I Expect Abroad?

Remember that the most important characteristic for any study abroad participant is flexibility. You are going abroad to experience a different way of life, which may include a different way of accommodating your disability and a different degree of independence than you may be used to at home. Be prepared to answer questions about your disability or accommodation needs from roommates, professors, your host family, or others who may be seeking to understand and be of assistance.

Resources

Going Abroad is a step by step guide to researching and applying to programs, living abroad, and returning home published by Mobility International USA (MIUSA), PO Box 10767, Eugene, OR 97440, 541-343-1284 (voice/TDD), 541-343-6812 (fax), clearinghouse@miusa.org

Transitions Abroad includes articles and resources on traveling with a disability

Processing Disabilities (LD, ADHD, Psychological, Brain injuries)

  • Will you need note takers for class? Is the site able to provide your usual test accommodations (extended time, special arrangements, etc.) based on your medical documentation?
  • What tutoring services might be available?
  • If you need to see a doctor or therapist for psychological concerns while abroad, have you established this contact prior to departure?
  • Have you considered bringing a personal recording device for lectures? Do you have permission to record lectures?
  • Are books available on tape or CD?
  • Be certain to work with the Disabilities Office to secure a letter outlining your required accommodations, if any.

Chronic Systemic Disorders

  • If you have respiratory problems or severe allergies, what is the air and environmental quality in the city you are considering?
  • If your condition is affected by temperatures, what is the climate in your prospective host city?
  • What prior notification has been given to the instructors regarding potential absences should your condition flare up unexpectedly?
  • Is the site able to provide your usual test accommodations (extended time, special arrangements, etc.) based on your medical documentation?
  • Will you need extended time on assignments?
  • What special dietary considerations might you have, and how easy are they to meet at your host site?

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Will you need an interpreter or Realtime Captioning?
  • Where/how will the interpreter be hired?
  • Does the interpreter know American Sign Language? Sign language is not universal and may differ between countries that have the same spoken language.
  • If you are taking a personal FM system, can you obtain batteries in your host country that work for your device?
  • Will you need a note taker?
  • Are captioned videos available?

Mobility/Orthopedic Disabilities

  • Will you take one or two wheelchairs? Electric or manual?
  • Do you need a transformer? Is the voltage in your host country compatible with your transformer?
  • How will you ship your chairs abroad?
  • Where can your chair be repaired abroad?
  • Do you need to make additional arrangements to get from the airport to the orientation site?
  • Are the streets and/or sidewalks paved or cobblestone? Are there curb cuts for wheelchair access?
  • What is the accessibility of the host city, living accommodations, and classroom facilities (elevators, bathrooms, classrooms, housing, public transportation, etc.)?
  • Is voice recognition software available?
  • Will you need note takers, scribes or transcribers?
  • What kind of field trips might your program go on? Are they accessible?
  • Are lab or library assistants available in your host country?
  • Do you need extended time on assignments or exams?

Visual Impairments

  • If you have a guide dog: have you contacted the consulate of your host country to determine if you will need to put your guide dog in quarantine? Will special housing or food arrangements be necessary for your dog? Is your dog allowed into the classroom?
  • Are alternate formats available? (books on tape, Braille, e-text, scanning, CCTV, etc.).
  • Will you need a mobility assistant to help you?
  • Have you obtained maps of your host city and enlarged them to become familiar with directions before departure?
  • What kind of test accommodations will you need?
  • Is there Braille signage on buildings, elevators, classroom, ATMs, etc.?
  • Will you have access to computer software in order to write papers or read assignments?

Personal Attendants

  • If you plan to ask a personal attendant to accompany you abroad, have you ensured that your attendant has the necessary passport, visa, documentation, insurance, and immunizations for traveling and living abroad?
  • If you are considering hiring an attendant on-site abroad after you arrive, how feasible is this at your site? What steps will you need to follow?
  • Where will the attendant live – can the program accommodate both of you in program housing, or will other arrangements be necessary?
 

CONTACT US

Office of Study Abroad and International Exchanges

503-838-8425 | or e-mail: studyabroad@wou.edu  | Location: Maaske Hall 106