National and cultural groups around the world differ in their views on issues of diversity, such as race and ethnicity, gender equality, religious freedom and disability. Students who will belong to a minority or disadvantaged population in their study abroad destination may find that perceptions and reactions to their identity are different abroad than in the U.S..

The Center for International Education believes that anyone who wants to study abroad can, regardless of their race, identity, ethnicity or religion. But it is also important to keep in mind that when students study abroad they are able to recognize the differences between the countries.

It is also important for students to personally reflect on their personal identity and how they identify themselves in the United States. How students identify themselves may not be how they are identified abroad. CIE encourages students to think about the parts that make up their identity.

LGBTQ+
LGBTQ+ students studying abroad have an opportunity to learn about themselves, their identity and enrich their lives in a global context. CIE understands that the LGBTQ+ community faces challenges, and will continue to provide support to ensure the best possible study abroad experience.

Things to consider:

  • Laws regarding sexuality and gender identity
  • Social attitude towards LGBTQ+ community
  • Norms and behaviors of the host culture
  • Current news of LGBTQ+ events
  • LGBTQ+ meeting places in the host country
  • Host country culture and religion
  • Program location
  • Short-term programs vs. long-term programs
  • How open do you want to express your sexuality and gender identity while abroad?
UCEAP Countries by Risk Level
Minimal Risk Low-Risk Moderate Risk High Risk
Argentina Australia Brazil Egypt
Canada France Chile Ghana
Czech Republic Israel China Indonesia
Demark Italy Dominican Republic Jordan
Germany Japan South Korea Morocco
Ireland Mexico Singapore Russia
Netherlands Thailand South Africa
New Zealand Taiwan
Spain Vietnam
Sweden

For a more detailed explanation of the destinations listed above please refer to the UCEAP Sexual and Diversity webpage.

Identity and Safety Abroad:

It is important to understand the implications of expressing an LGBTQ+ identity abroad. Concepts of identity and the way in which LGBTQ+ individuals are perceived not only vary from country to country, but even between regions within the same country. Researching the host country before going abroad will help tone down the risks.

Though once abroad, it is recommended that students reevaluate the local LGBTQ+ tolerance levels before coming out. As part of the study abroad experience, students learn to adapt to their new environment by observing local manners and behaviors of their host culture. LGBTQ+ students should exercise the same caution.

Additional Resources:

Even while students abroad are still Panthers!, they are first and foremost UWM students, and are always welcome to contact the UWM LGBT Resource Center!

Important Contacts

LGBT Resource Center Contact Information:
General Email: peerout@uwm.edu
Director Email: jrmurray@uwm.edu
Office Phone: 414-229-4116
Location: UWM Student Union WG89

Racial & Ethnic Minorities
CIE encourages all students to study abroad, but recognizes that students of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds may face unique challenges, as definitions of race vary from culture to culture.

Students may encounter a broad range of attitudes regarding diversity issues that may result in stares, comments, or, even worse, blatant prejudice by the host population. Often people in the host country will be curious, and some may ask questions about their cultural heritage that feel insensitive. Keep in mind that people in other countries have different cultural norms and are often more blunt and less “politically correct” compared to the United States. It is highly recommended that students research social norms and cultural practices of the host country before leaving to study abroad.

Tips for Racial and Ethnic Minority Students:

  • Remember that people abroad have different cultural norms and tend to be less “politically correct” than people in the U.S..
  • The more that students integrate with the culture the less they will stand out, but skin, hair or other features may still attract attention.
  • Research what kinds of contact and relations your minority group has had in the host country.
  • Be aware that people may generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity.
  • Learn more about other minority students’ experiences abroad. Connect with a study abroad coordinator to learn about previous students who have studied abroad on that specific program.
  • Build a support network among other study abroad students so that if you do face racial or discriminatory incidents you’ll have support to deal with it.
    • Also have a support network back at home. Support networks can include, family, friends, significant others, etc. CIE’s study abroad coordinators will continue to support you while you are abroad.
  • Be prepared if an incident does arise, but don’t go abroad expecting racism or discrimination to occur.

Additional Resources:

Even while students abroad are still Panthers!, they are first and foremost UWM students, and are always welcome to contact the Inclusive Excellence Center.

Important Contacts

Inclusive Excellence Center Contact Information:
General Email: iecenter@uwm.edu
Director Email: wscherer@uwm.edu
Office Phone: 414-229-7234
Location: UWM Student Union W119

Religion
A student’s religion might be one of the aspects of a student’s identity that is least looked at by a student, but it is also important to consider how religion affects students while abroad.

In many countries and cultures, religion is an important aspect of the lives of the natives, and it may vary depending on what country students travel to. Along with preliminary research of the country, CIE recommends that students also research the country’s religion and consider how it may affect them while abroad.

It is also important for students to remember to stay open-minded about different beliefs they may encounter, and consider how their own beliefs will be received abroad. Learning about a country’s major religions can be a good opportunity to learn more about its culture. If students plan to worship abroad, it is important to do some research on what locations will be available.

Questions to Consider:

  • What is the degree of religious tolerance in your host country? What is the dominant religion in your host country? Are all religions tolerated?
  • Will you be part of the religious majority or minority?
  • Is it safe to wear religious symbols and/or clothing?
  • How are atheists and agnostics perceived in the host country?
  • Are there laws regarding religion (ex. proselytizing Christianity is banned under Chinese law)?
  • Is there separation of religion and the government?

Additional Resources:

Disabilities
Students with disabilities may not think that study abroad is an option for them. CIE encourages students from all backgrounds, including students with disabilities, to explore all of CIE’s options. Just as cultures differ, though, so does the degree of access and readily available disability services in the countries and communities students may consider for their study abroad experience. There are many study abroad programs in which students with disabilities have successfully participated; however, not every study abroad experience is a good fit from an accessibility perspective.

To maximize the opportunity to travel and study internationally, it is important that students allocate a minimum of six months (preferably up to one year) in advance to plan for accommodations, regardless of type of disability.

Student Responsibilities:

  • Fully research study abroad programs offered through UWM. Consider both your educational goals and the specific accommodations you may need in order to participate and meet study abroad program standards.
  • Recognize that accommodation planning requires extra preparation time, often well in advance of application deadlines and notification of acceptance to a program. This is particularly true if accommodations include any of the following: sign language interpreting, captioning, conversion of print to audio or Braille, or mobility considerations including, but not limited to, transportation and housing.
    • Students can work with CIE and the Accessibility Resource Center to find the best program that meets the needs of students’ academic goals and accessibility needs for the program.
  • Create a realistic budget for your study abroad expenses, including personal expenses associated with disability-related needs (e.g., personal attendant services, specialized equipment, adaptive technology, medication or other health care costs, etc.)

Questions to Consider:

  • Can you bring your prescribed medications through customs and to your host country?
  • Can your current treating specialist refer you to possible agencies or professionals who may assist you in the event of an emergency?
  • What are the housing options for your program, and what accommodations do you need?
  • Are the room dimensions physically accessible to individual needs?
    Are there elevators available in your housing facility?
  • What types of accessible public transportation are available in the host country?
  • What types of transportation will be most often used during your program?

Tips for Students with Disabilities:

  • Start planning early!
  • Be flexible and think creatively about how you can accommodate your disability abroad.
  • Discuss your accommodation needs with your study abroad coordinator. The more extensive your needs (for example, sign language interpreters or accessible transportation and housing), the more advanced planning time is critical.
  • Identify accommodations that would minimize barriers and enhance your participation and enjoyment while abroad.
    • Keep in mind that due to differing environments, you may need accommodations or assistance abroad that you may not typically need in the United States.
  • Work together with CIE’s study abroad coordinators, the ARC, and family to create a budget and a financial plan for accomplishing the financial goals that were set.

Additional Resources:

Even while students abroad are still Panthers!, they are first and foremost UWM students, and are always welcome to contact the Accessibility Resource Center.

Important Contacts

Accessibility Resource Center Contact Information:
General Email: archelp@uwm.edu
Director Email: barbaras@uwm.edu
Office Phone: 414-229-6287
Location: Mitchell Hall 112

Women Abroad
Studying abroad in a different country and being immersed in a different culture can expose women to different attitudes that may not be prevalent back at home. It is recommended that before students go abroad that they research their host country’s cultural values and behaviors regarding women.

Across many countries, traditional gender roles often inform how women are expected to act, dress and even speak to others. What might be perceived as common behavior for women in the U.S. may be misinterpreted in other countries.

Sometimes, what is considered “acceptable behavior” for women in the U.S. has sexual connotations in other cultures, so it’s important to talk with other women who have been to the country and may know what type of behavior is most culturally appropriate. Students will also want to find out what the local attitudes are towards American women.

Tips for Women Abroad:
  • Do research on gender roles and history beforehand.
  • Put your safety first, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Dress and act like the local women to avoid standing out.
  • Be aware of cultural differences, including body language, that may be misinterpreted in the host culture.
  • Talk with other women who have studied abroad to find out more about their experiences.

Additional Resources:

Even while students abroad are still Panthers!, they are first and foremost UWM students, and are always welcome to contact the Women’s Resource Center.

Important Contacts

Women’s Resource Center Contact Information:
General Email: wmncntr@uwm.edu
Director Email: lacymc@uwm.edu
Office Phone: 414-229-2852
Location: UWM Student Union WG93