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Ability, Diversity & Identity Abroad

Beloit College has made a strong commitment to encouraging diversity and fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, religion, or any other difference in background or identity. The Office of International Education would like to encourage and facilitate the same diversity of participation in its off-campus study programs. We recognize that students from underrepresented groups face distinct challenges when considering and preparing for off-campus study, and have compiled this page to address some of these concerns.

Negotiating Identity

Each of us has a complex set of factors, interests, and backgrounds that make up our personal identities. Going abroad, or even to another city in the US, and immersing yourself in another culture may challenge aspects of your identity and possibly change the way you view yourself. Something that marks you out as different at home may not be a big deal in your host community, while another aspect of your identity that you had hardly noticed before becomes the first thing that people ask you about. The more you know about the culture of your off-campus site before you get there, the more prepared you will be to face challenges to your identity.

It is important to be aware that you may face some unwanted attention or prejudice during your time off-campus due to cultural differences and norms. You may get stared at because of the color of your skin or hair, or get unwanted comments on the way that you dress. Knowing how to address these challenges, and having a support network in place to help you if and when they occur, is essential. This network should include not only family and friends back home, but also on-site support such as the local program coordinator or international student advisor and other program participants.

Students from underrepresented groups in the US may find themselves better equipped to deal with the identity challenges associated with off-campus study due to prior experience being part of a minority.

Accommodating Disabilities

Disability is not considered in determining eligibility to study abroad at Beloit College.  However, disability may affect program choice, as disability supports vary from country to country and institution to institution.  Study abroad advisors in the Office of International Education can help students with disabilities determine which locations will best suit their needs. If you have a disability and need accommodation, visit our page on Disability Services Abroad for information on support available abroad.


Navigating National Identities

In times of heightened political divisions, your national identities may take on different meanings while you are abroad. Read this resource page for tips on how to navigate these encounters.

Socio-Economic Issues

Racial and Ethnic Identities

Depending on where you study abroad, your appearance may immediately distinguish you as a foreigner or it may help you blend in. This can lead to an interesting clash of identities: your own self-perception vs. local expectations of what it means to be a student from an American college. Being a racial minority in your host country can also sometimes lead to challenging, uncomfortable, or even offensive questions and assumptions, as can suddenly finding yourself in the majority. Here are some useful websites to help you prepare for these situations.

Some questions to consider include: 

  • What racial categories or constructions exist in your host country? 
  • Do any of the power structures in your host country favor people of a certain race or races, or other markers? How will you fit into this system?
  • What is the history of colonialism in your host country?  
  • What are the pressing immigration and/or emigration issues in your host country?  


LGBTQ Students

Legal and social attitudes towards sexuality and gender vary considerably across cultures. Do your research while applying and preparing for off-campus study so that you know what to expect and how to stay safe and avoid persecution.


Female Students

You may face different attitudes towards women and gender roles during your studies and travels abroad. Research the gender-related cultural norms of your host country before you go and if possible, talk to female students or professors who have been there before. To avoid unwanted attention, you may want to observe and imitate the appearance and behavior of local women. However, you should never feel pressured to adapt and adjust to the extent that you feel unsafe.


Undocumented Students

As an undocumented student, your ability to travel outside the country and gain re-entry is restricted, but it is not impossible. Under laws current in 2016, you may be able to qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  The future of this law is in question in 2017, but information can be found on this website.