Identities Abroad & Testimonials

Personal identity can impact students differently during an education abroad program. Some students might not have traveled before to another country and may find themselves as a minority in a community for the first time; or their sexual orientation or gender identity may not be fully accepted in the host culture. Your identities in the United States will not always be how people view you abroad as their perception of U.S. citizens might be influenced by stereotypes portrayed on TV shows. For example, you may think of yourself as a college student who is using loans and scholarships to pay for college, but in your host country you may be viewed as financially sound simply because you were able to study abroad.

The attention you get for your personal identity will differ and may not always be positive. However, while you cannot control the attention you receive, you can make your own decisions on how you react to this attention. We, at IEE, are here to help prepare you for the situations that may arise.

Thinking about your personal identity

Before you choose an education abroad program, we encourage you to think about the parts that make up your personal identity. For example, think about the combination of how you see yourself and how others might see you. Think about how your identities might be influenced by the various roles you play during your day, or how your personal choices influence how you identify yourself. There will be more noticeable aspects of your identity (sex, ethnicity, age, etc.) that people may make assumptions about, while others are not as noticeable (gender, religion, mental health, citizenship, etc.). While you are planning your education abroad experience and choosing a location, it is important to ask yourself:

  • What will you feel comfortable/uncomfortable talking about in that country?
  • How will you react if aspects of your identity are received negatively, or if someone makes a comment that offends you?
  • Is it safe for you to go to that location, if parts of your personal identity are punishable by law in that country?
  • How will your identity change in that country? How might you navigate that change while you are there and once you get back home?

There are resources that can help you answer those questions. UWL is member of the Diversity Abroad Network, an organization dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusive practices for global education. They provide online resources such as their destination guides to help prepare students going abroad. Students can also create a free account to explore their resources.

Below, we have identified some of the aspects that could be part of a student's personal identity. We recognize there are many more identities we have not included here; therefore, if you do not find the help you seek, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you!