The Office for International Study is committed to offering education abroad experiences to all Smith students and recognizes that education abroad is not just a student-focused experience but rather a holistic, intercultural one. Students are likely to encounter a significant range of attitudes regarding diversity issues while abroad. Understanding how these perceptions can influence the education-abroad experience can go a long way toward better understanding oneself and the new culture.
Prepare for New Experiences
Students returning from abroad advise and help prepare those who are about to depart. Education about the host culture and a willingness to embrace the complexities and differences will open up unexpected doors and opportunities for learning.
We encourage all students to ask questions, explore resources and remember that all cultures have complexities. Finding opportunities to successfully live in another culture is extraordinary.
Identity and Study Abroad
You may find that a number of factors may influence your experience abroad, including your nationality; religious, racial or ethnic heritage; gender; sexual orientation; mobility; accessibility and disability; and personality. Attitudes toward women and minority groups vary greatly across cultures, as do experiences in gender identity and sexual orientation. In some cultures you may experience being in the minority (i.e., a foreigner) or in the majority for the first time. How the "majority culture" defines itself also differs around the world. No place is "monocultural" and learning about difference by living and studying outside the U.S. can bring new insights upon return.
Many students of color report that in the United States they self-identify as African American, Latin American, Asian American and so on, but abroad, they are simply American. Some students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds also report a range of experiences in treatment as a "foreigner." Some students report feeling exhilarated by the freedom from the U.S./American context of race relations, to those who experienced different degrees of "naive" curiosity. Some felt they met both familiar and new types of prejudice and had to learn new coping strategies.
All students are encouraged to ask questions, explore resources, and remember that all cultures have complexities. Finding opportunities to successfully live in another culture is extraordinary. The links in the right-hand column will provide you with some information and resources in exploring different perspectives on diversity issues abroad.
Explore the Following Pages
- Gender Roles
- Nontraditional Students
- Race & Ethnicity
- Sexual Orientation & Identity
- Special Diets
As the Smith community grapples with environmental sustainability issues, it's important to learn more about how to minimize your ecological footprint within the study abroad context. Below is a list of resources that students can explore to become more informed about green initiatives abroad and how to travel "lightly."
Learn more on Ways to Participate, Sustainable Travel, and Carbon Offsetting here.
A collection of student quotes addressing diversity issues including ethnicity, heritage, sexual orientation, religion, minority/majority issues, physical appearance and language.
An organization that provides information about best practices for selecting a high-quality volunteer abroad program. See especially the "Why Standards" and "Volunteer Stories" tabs on their website.