Identity & Diversity While Studying Abroad 

We have compiled the resources, below, to get you thinking about your upcoming study abroad experience.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for or have any questions or concerns, please contact us for assistance at

Accent Global Learning is a member of the Diversity Abroad Network.  Students can also create a free Diversity Abroad account and begin exploring. 

The U.S. has gained global recognition through its international political influence, music, movies, and TV shows and other cultural exports. Due to this, many people have some knowledge of U.S. culture and politics and  U.S. citizens traveling abroad may encounter individuals with strong views about the U.S. Responding to questions or comments about the U.S. may be challenging, especially if you are studying abroad in a second language and may not have the vocabulary you would normally use when discussing sensitive or difficult subjects. As such, it is important to prepare ahead of time by researching current and historical relations between the U.S. and your host. Most importantly, try to see these conversations as opportunities to listen and learn.  

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Students living with disabilities successfully participate in study abroad programs every year; the key to a successful experience is planning. It is important to research the level of accessibility provided in the study abroad destinations. 

Please take time to consider some important factors such as the prevalence of physically accessible buildings and streets, the type of support services available, and whether the appropriate health care and medicines are available, when choosing to study abroad.  

We are happy to help you research this information and make recommendations based on your particular needs. Students can also contact their home university’s Disability Resource Centers, or similar for information and advice. 

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Individuals who are first-generation college students not only break new ground in their families by pursuing higher education but are also trailblazers when it comes to international travel. Although the idea of embarking on another significant “first” during their college years may appear intimidating, there are numerous benefits to be gained from accepting the challenge of studying abroad. We are delighted to assist you in initiating the process, and you can also seek further information and guidance from the personnel at your home institution. 

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When traveling abroad, regardless of prior experience, it is crucial to take into account the host country’s cultural perspective on gender identity. This is because gender roles may differ from those in the United States. It is recommended that all students educate themselves about sexual harassment, safety, and the societal expectations surrounding gender that they may encounter in their host culture. These expectations may include dating and friendships among individuals with different gender identities, as well as gender-based stereotypes of U.S. Americans. In addition to these concerns, some students may have practical questions or worries. For instance, transgender students may want to seek further information regarding their rights when going through airport security, whether their identity will conflict with the immigration regulations of the host country, and whether they will be able to access appropriate healthcare and medications while abroad 

Legal Considerations Abroad:  

Laws governing LGBTQIA relationships and sexual activity vary across different countries. Regardless of your country of citizenship, you must abide by the laws of the host country. Familiarizing yourself with these laws can help you in determining which countries to travel to and whether you will pursue relationships while abroad. Even if you have no intention of engaging in sexual activity while you are abroad, it’s prudent to be aware of the local laws regarding sexuality and gender identity. You should research:  

  • The legality of same-sex sexual behavior  
  • The age of consent for same-sex sexual behavior 
  • Restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQIA people 
  • Anti-discrimination laws (these can be national laws or specific to local areas) 

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association(ILGA) is the world federation of national and local organizations dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTQIA people across the globe. ILGA has a global map or sexual orientation laws.  

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Read Miriam Berger’s article “A guide to how gender-neutral language is developing around the world” in the Washington Post  

If you have a specific desire to learn more about your heritage and ancestry during your study abroad experience, you may consider yourself a “heritage seeker”.  

Because heritage seekers are often motivated to choose to study abroad to learn more about their own cultural, the experience of studying abroad can be especially emotional, as there often are strong personal factors tied to the experience.  

Preparing in advance by familiarizing yourself with your host country (or, in some cases, your home country) ahead of time can help to prepare you for your time abroad. 

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Every year, international students pursuing degrees in the U.S.  take part in our study abroad programs. While some students opt to return to their home countries, others decide to venture out and discover different parts of the world. 

If you choose to study abroad here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Research and apply to programs early.  
  • Communicate with your International Students and Scholars Offie at your home university advisor as soon as you have picked a program. They can discuss how studying abroad will affect your F-1/J-1 visa status and the proper documents and signatures necessary to re-enter the U.S.  
  • Student visa requirements vary by country, so you will want to explore application requirements well in advance of the program. You may need to apply for “transit visas” to pass through a country on the way to your final destination. Carefully think through travel routes to get to your study abroad destination 

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One of the most common misconceptions about studying abroad is that it is unaffordable for students with high financial need. However, many students with limited financial resources do study abroad! .  

Careful planning can help you have a successful and rewarding time abroad! Using budgeting apps can be an effective way to stay on track financially both before and during study abroad. For some ideas on which app to use, you can check out this Forbes  article “Best Budgeting Apps Of March 2023” 

For many students, studying abroad can be a time when their racial or ethnic identity shifts. This is because race and ethnicity are viewed differently from country to country, so when you’re abroad, you may find yourself in an ethnic minority or majority for the first time in your life or you have to think about your identity in a new way.  

 In order to better prepare you for your host country’s social environment and how it may differ from your own, it can be useful to research the race and ethnic history of that nation in advance. 

 General Resources 

  • DiversityAbroad offers discussion forums, destination guides, student blogs, and a funding directory to assist students of diverse backgrounds. 

Resources for Specific Racial & Ethnic Groups * 

* Resources from Northwestern University’s “Identity Abroad: Race & Ethnicity”  

Black or African American 

Asian or Asian American 

Latinx or Hispanic 

Indigenous or Native American 

One exciting and interesting aspect about experiencing another culture is developing a deeper understanding of religious traditions and beliefs that differ from our own.  

 If you are planning to practice your religion abroad you may want to learn more about how you practices and beliefs align with those of their host culture. 

 Highlighted resources 

  • Look at international news sources like The Economist or BBC Religion and Ethics to get a sense of current political and societal issues in your host country. 
  • On the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, explore religious change and its impact on societies around the world through topics such as how religious beliefs shape social values and political attitudes, trends in religious affiliation, and restrictions on the practice of religion. 
  • Use this interactive map to see how your identity may interact with those in your host country. This map displays the largest religious group in each country. 


  1. Do Your Research
    Before you go abroad, research the country and culture you will be living in. Understanding the cultural norms and expectations can help you feel more comfortable and avoid cultural misunderstandings. Additionally, research the laws and attitudes towards different identities in the country you will be studying in. 
  2. Connect With Resources On Campus
    Many universities have resources for students studying abroad, including cultural centers and diversity offices. These offices can provide support and resources for students navigating their identities abroad. Additionally, many universities have student groups for students from underrepresented backgrounds. 
  3.  Find A Community Abroad
    Connecting with other students from similar backgrounds can be an excellent way to find support and build community abroad. Consider reaching out to other students on your program or connecting with local organizations that cater to your identity group. 
  4.  Be Aware Of Cultural Differences
    Different cultures have different norms and expectations around identity. For example, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals can vary widely from country to country. Be aware of these differences and be prepared to adapt to new cultural expectations. 
  5.  Be Prepared To Advocate For Yourself
    In some countries, certain identities may face discrimination or harassment. Be prepared to advocate for yourself and know your rights. Familiarize yourself with resources such as those listed above or the resources provided by your study abroad office. 
  6.  Take Care Of Your Mental Health
    Studying abroad can be a stressful experience, particularly if you are navigating new cultural norms and facing discrimination. Make sure to prioritize your mental health while abroad. Consider seeking out mental health resources through Mindhamok, Accents partner for mental health and well-being. 
  7.  Stay In Touch With Your Support Network
    Studying abroad can be isolating, particularly if you are far from your usual support network. Stay in touch with friends and family back home, and consider joining online support groups for people from your identity group. 
  8.  Know Your Resources For Reporting Incidents
    If you experience discrimination, harassment, or violence while abroad, know your resources for reporting incidents. Contact both Accent’s study abroad staff and your study abroad office, the U.S. Embassy in your host country, or local advocacy organizations for support and guidance. 
  9.  Have An Open Mind And Be Willing To Learn
    Studying abroad can be an excellent opportunity to learn about different cultures and identities. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn about new perspectives and experiences. 


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