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Student Identity

Sign saying diversity
Aspects of your identity will likely have an impact on your experience in a new location or culture. Consider how your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, disability status and other identities intersect. Begin researching in advance. Take advantage of the knowledge of students on campus who have studied or lived in the location. For off-campus study, ask your program to connect you with former students. Our office can also help you find information, identify resources available on campus, or connect with off-campus program partners. Some questions to consider:
  • What are the laws surrounding my identities in my host country?
  • What are some of the attitudes toward my identities in my host country?
  • Are there norms or behavioral expectations for my identities in my host country?
  • How might the diversity (or lack of diversity) among the other students on my program might affect my experience abroad?
  • What resources might I need for support if I am the only student of my identity on my program?
  • What resources are available in my host country?
  • How flexible am I in the expression of my identities with regard to the local norms of my host country?
  • Am I willing to change my clothing choices?
  • Would it be safer to keep aspects of my identities private? Am I okay with this?
  • Consider Nationality versus racial identity. How will you prepare for a possible shift in the way others perceive you?
  • Being in the majority or minority: Will you be perceived as part of the majority or minority? What privileges or responsibilities will you experience?
  • Heritage seekers: What would you like to get out of the experience? What are your expectations? What if the host culture doesn't meet your expectations?

Grinnell College has a membership with Diversity Abroad which supports diversity and inclusion in global education. 

Steps to Create an Account:
1. Click on this link and complete the "new registration" information at the bottom of the page.
2. Fill in registration information
3. Fill in member information
a. Under "Organization" enter: Grinnell College
b. Under "Your Title" enter: Student 
c. In the "Department" drop-down menu select: Other
4. Complete the registration and wait for a confirmation email

After Your Account Has Been Activated:
1. Login
2. Hover over the "Resources & Services" tab 
3. Click on the drop-down option "Member Resource Center" 
4. Scroll down until you find "Country Diversity Climate Notes"
5. Select your country of choice under "List of Regions & Countries"

The following resources are organized within Diversity Abroad based on their relevance to these student identities:
Racially and Ethnically Diverse Students
High Financial Need Students
First Generation College Students
Students with Disabilities
LGBTQI+ Students
Religious Identity 
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
International Students
STEM Students

Be sure to talk with your current doctor or counseling provider about your travel plans and steps to take to ensure continuing necessary prescriptions or counseling availability at your program location.
  • Will my disability affect which programs I consider?
  • Will I disclose my condition to my program or Grinnell?
  • How will I plan ahead to manage my condition before going abroad?
  • How will I adjust to living in a foreign country? (re: housing, food, culture, language, etc.)
  • What barriers might I encounter (both in planning to go abroad, and while abroad), and how will I overcome them?
  • If I utilize academic, medical, psychological, or other resources, will I have access to and utilize similar resources abroad? Where can I find the resources I need?
  • If I am taking prescription medication, how can I research whether or not I will access to this medication abroad? Start this process early! First, talk with your prescribing physician well in advance about getting the supply you need for going abroad. Find out if the medication is available abroad. Do not plan on sending medications abroad since it will require customs paperwork and may be delayed or confiscated in delivery. If possible, bring an adequate supply in the original container, and a prescription with the physician's explanation of the condition as well as the generic and brand names of the medication and dosage information. Check with the embassies of the countries you expect to visit to make sure the medications are not illegal there. For more information visit  Mobility International’s medications tip sheet. 
  • How will I answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country? Look up key vocabulary words ahead of time. ​
In this section, we refer primarily, but not exclusively, to cisgender-identified women and men, as transgender-identified individuals or gender-queer individuals may have additional considerations-see the LGBTQIA+ section for additional resources.

In some countries, men might be expected to adopt a machismo attitude toward life and women. For instance, men in some cultures consider people-watching and "catcalling" to women an acceptable pastime. In some countries, it is not uncommon for heterosexual male friends to hold hands while walking down the street, or to greet each other with kisses on the cheek. Keep an open mind and do your best to respect the cultural differences, but also trust your instincts. You should never feel forced to act in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is also important for men to understand the prevailing gender roles in their program location, and to be sensitive to the challenges that women in the program may face that men may not. Men are encouraged to be supportive of their friends on the program by recognizing situations in which men can, by their own behavior and actions, meaningfully reduce women's exposure to risk and harassment.

There is no "right or wrong" way to behave as a woman abroad; all choices about personal expression are valid. At the same time, it is important to recognize that in some locations and cultures, women's actions and personal expression can send different cultural signals that may not be understood in the same way as they are at home, and they may have unintended consequences. These consequences can range from feeling uncomfortable or awkward in an unfamiliar situation to, in the worst (and rarest) cases, being put in danger of physical or emotional harm. When making decisions about behavior, actions, and relationships abroad, all students are urged to put their safety first. You are also encouraged to inform yourself, before departure and during your program, of local cultural cues and gender roles in order to help make the best decisions for you.
  • Prioritize your personal safety over cultural sensitivity.
  • Pay attention to dressing in a culturally appropriate way.
  • Research the security situation and talk to other students who have traveled to the countries you plan to visit.
  • At night, travel in groups and never walk home alone.
  • In some cultures, for females, the presence of a male friend can deflect unwanted attention.
  • Make sure you know the local emergency phone number.
  • Locate the nearest U.S. embassies and consulates.
  • Stay in hostels with a clientele of travelers like you.
  • Try pairing up with another solo traveler.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are traveling and when you plan to return.
  • Learn basic phrases in the local language.
  • If you are being verbally harassed, avoid making eye contact and continue on your way.
  • Try to arrive at your destination during the day.
  • Engage in conversation with locals about their roles and how to deflect unwanted attention.
  • Department of State Travel Information for Women
All Abroad is intended to "help all students study abroad." The site includes travel and study tips, additional resources, and information geared toward specific ethnic and racial groups. Also, there are valuable stories from faculty and student mentors addressing specific audiences.