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Identity and Diversity

diversity

Studying abroad may lead you to reflect upon different aspects of your identity. Taking time to learn about your host country and their cultural norms will develop your perspective on how your identity intersects with others.

Below are topical guides and resources to help you reflect on your identities and how they may be perceived while you are studying abroad. We also encourage you to look beyond your own identities and take time to use these resources to learn about others so that you can be a supportive ally to your peers while studying abroad.

 

Accessibility & Health

Students who require accessibility, mobility, medical, and disability-related accommodations can and do study abroad. VCU Education Abroad is committed to providing experiences where all students have equal access to services, activities, and academic programs. We recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our Education Abroad advisers and also visiting the VCU office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO)

Things to Consider:
  1. Early disclosure
    1. Conversations of accessibility and health begin with you! Early disclosure with your Education Abroad Adviser will help you identify the best program fit and create the most accessible plan for your in-country experience.
  2. Campus accommodations
    1. While we cannot change how other countries perceive accessibility standards, proactive planning, discussion, and cross-campus networking all work together to ensure you will be aware of the accessibility standards you will experience and how to overcome any shortfalls you encounter while abroad.
  3. Learn about the country and culture
    1. Ask yourself, how do perceptions of accessibility, health, mental health, and accommodation differ in the country you wish to visit? Check out our additional resources below to get started finding answers to those questions. 
  4. Plan to overcome 
    1. The best study abroad experiences usually result from the student gathering information in advance, planning self-care strategies to cope with change, and having a network of support.

Campus Resources: Additional Resources: Accessibility Resources
  • Mobility International USAExplore a selection of resources related to mobility abroad and learn of efforts to advance disability rights and leadership globally.
  • U.S. State Department: Traveling with Disabilities: Website maintained by the Department of State with specific Information on service animals, assistive equipment, medical considerations, and other useful links to reference while planning your trip abroad.
  • CDC: Travelers with DisabilitiesWebsite maintained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with specific Information on service animals, assistive equipment, medical consideration and other useful links to reference while planning your trip abroad.
Mental Health Resources
 

LGBTQIA Students

VCU Education Abroad is a Safe Zone and our team welcomes study abroad questions from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer perspectives. If you are not sure where to begin, we recommend you first assess your comfort level in openly discussing your identity to VCU’s support staff and consider the campus resources located below. 

Things to Consider

  1. Building your study abroad support network
    1. Establishing plans to communicate with friends, family, advisors, and instructors while abroad creates a group atmosphere that supports you in almost every situation you may face. If you require tips on how to build your network, speak with one of our Education Abroad advisers to learn the process. 
  2. Host country perceptions and safety of openly sharing your identity 
    1. Countries vary greatly in their cultural, legal, and social perceptions on issues related to LGBTQIA+. While levels of acceptance and support vary, knowing what to expect creates a more positive travel experience thanks to planning. 
  3. Sense of community
    1. Local organizations, student groups, and university programs can be incredible sources of support. Speak with your study abroad adviser to determine trustworthy points of contact and how to notify them in advance of your arrival.
    2. Community begins with where you live! Ensure you understand the available housing options: is there LGBTQ+ or gender-neutral housing/bathrooms, am I comfortable living with a host family? 
  4. Travel arrangements
    1. We encourage you to check out guidance from the U.S. Department of State for pre-departure, documentation, and while abroad tips. 
    2. Explore these travel guides by the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), topics include: safety and security, selecting a destination, and finding allies. 

Campus Resources Additional Resources
 

Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Students

VCU Education Abroad is committed to supporting BIPOC students by identifying and removing barriers that may exist to experiencing the rewarding opportunity of study abroad. If you are unsure where to begin, speak with an Education Abroad adviser to understand the process and consider specific factors in traveling that pertain to you as a multicultural student. 

Things to Consider

  1. Preparing to Study Abroad
    1. Have any other students of my race/ethnic background traveled to my host country? If so, can I speak with any of them?
    2. How does my host country treat those of racial and ethnic minorities? Will I be considered a minority in my host country/program? 
    3. While you might be recognized by race in the United States, you might find yourself recognized first as an American. How might this perception affect you? 
  2. While abroad
    1. You might be the first person that someone in your host country has seen or met of your race, ethnicity, or nationality. Researching stereotypes using resources provided below will best prepare you for your arrival in your country. 
    2. You may feel pressure to correct assumptions made about your racial identity while abroad. Consider your own study abroad goals and don’t feel the need to divert from them by responding to every assumption. 
  3. Encountering racism and/or discrimination abroad
    1. If you ever feel unsafe or that discrimation is overwhelming while abroad, contact your on-site program coordinators and leaders for support.
    2. Know that sometimes students encounter more racial challenges with their peers studying abroad than they do with the host community. Again, contact your on-site program coordinators and leaders for support. 
  4. Re-connecting when coming home 
    1. VCU celebrates all nationalities and races and encourages study abroad returnees to share their stories with prospective study abroad students - let us know if you would like to be connected to a returnee or get involved when you return. 

Campus Resources Additional Resources African-American Students Asian & Pacific Islander Students Hispanic Students Native American & Alaskan Students

First Generation College Students 

 
As a first gen college student, we recognize that you might also be the first person in your family to have the opportunity to study abroad. The VCU Education Abroad Office is here to help you through the process of planning to study abroad.

Things to Consider
  1. Understand the benefits of studying abroad
    1. Study abroad is an investment of time and money, so be sure to learn more about the many academic, professional and personal development opportunities that will benefit you the rest of your life thanks to your study abroad experience. 
    2. Check out these 10 GREAT Reasons to Study Abroad! You can share this with your family if they have questions about why you should study abroad. 
  2. Meet with your advisors 
    1. Seek support from VCU education abroad adviser, academic advisors and financial aid counselors. These advisors will walk you through the timeline of choosing the best term to study abroad for your major, finding a program that the classes will fit into the VCU curriculum requirements, knowing how your financial aid will follow you abroad and sharing the many scholarship opportunities. 
    2. Do as much research as you can about study abroad and jot down any and all questions or concerns that you have to bring to advising meetings! There are no silly or stupid questions. We are happy to connect you with study abroad alumni who can give you a peer perspective on the process. Our advisers are also happy to speak with your family to help reassure them of your decision to study abroad - just let your adviser know. 
  3. Local/Virtual international and intercultural experiences
    1. Get involved with the international community at VCU through Global Education Office sponsored programs, like conversation partners and cultural conversations, or you could take globally focused courses at VCU.
    2. Explore virtual study and intern programs which allow students to explore another culture, get unique internship experiences, take courses not offered at VCU and to gain invaluable intercultural professional and academic skills. 

Campus Resources
  • You First at VCUYou First at VCU is here to provide resources and support on your academic journey as a first generation college student, even as you plan your time abroad..
  • VCU Academic AdvisingThe VCU Academic Advising Office is here to help you make the best academic plans possible, including study abroad, through their advising services.
  • VCU Financial AidThe VCU financial aid office offers services to help you navigate the funding and payment process of your college experience, including studying abroad.
Additional Resources

First Time Travelers

 
Whether you are an experienced traveler or if this is your first time leaving the US, VCU Education Abroad can provide resources for you to make your experience both positive and rewarding. As with any travel experience, the first step is to bring your interests to our Education Abroad advisers, who can help discuss program options, the application process, funding opportunities and logistical planning for your trip. 

Things to Consider
  1. Travel concerns
    1. We recognize that you might not know what questions to ask - and that is totally OK! Having additional concerns about traveling is expected and normal. The more you share with our advisers, the more we can connect you to resources that can support and inform your decisions for study abroad.
  2. Departure steps
    1. We recommend dividing your preparation into smaller steps that can be more easily scheduled and completed. An example of departure steps may include: 
      1. Applying for a Passport
      2. Booking a Flight 
      3. Packing 
      4. Preparations before arriving at the airport 
      5. Experience while at the airport 
      6. Arrival logistics at your destination (program/destination specific - speak with your advisor)
  3. Study abroad support network 
    1. Establishing plans to communicate with friends, family, advisers, and instructors creates a supportive atmosphere for you while abroad. If you require tips on how to build your network, speak with one of our Education Abroad advisers to learn the process. 

Campus Resources 
  • VCU Library Guide: Check out some great VCU library resources for learning about your study abroad destination, language practice and library access while away.
Additional Resources
  • U.S. State Department Travelers ChecklistThis checklist from The U.S. Department of State is a great resource for understanding the main concerns all travelers should consider.
  • Go Overseas 8 First Time Travel TipsGain perspective on key aspects of abroad travel like passports, visas, money access, accommodation, transportation and more.
  • St. Olaf College Tips: Tips to make your experience as smooth and easy as possible as a first time traveler: booking the ticket, packing, what to do before and after the flight, etc.