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A Division of the International Studies Office

Your Identity

Take a moment to think about the components of your identity and those that are of particular importance to you. Do aspects of your identity (such as your heritage) shape your goals for your time abroad? Are there special concerns to address or preparations to make? How might certain aspects of your identity be received by your host community? Keep these questions in mind as you conduct your program search. Additional considerations, along with resources, are provided below to help you think about your identity in the context of going abroad.

Access Abroad and Students with Disabilities

We encourage all students to study abroad! UVA is dedicated to creating an environment of access and inclusion both on Grounds and abroad. To make this the best experience for you, it is vital that you inform the International Studies Office (ISO) and the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC) of your disability, including serious medical conditions, and your desire to study abroad as early as possible. Planning, preparation and good communication are key factors to a successful experience abroad.

Changes in food, lifestyle, climate, in addition to increased physical demands can create stress in the body which can worsen some conditions. It is important to be aware that some programs are more physically demanding than others, and some universities do not provide the same learning accommodations as are standard in the U.S.  It’s also essential to know that many countries do not have the same accessibility laws as the U.S. With these important factors in mind, it is imperative to inform both SDAC and ISO of accommodation requests as early as possible because these may take a considerable amount of time to arrange.  It is recommended that you work with SDAC and ISO to start planning your experience at least six months in advance.

To prepare for the study abroad process, here is a quick checklist on how to get started:

  • View the Education Abroad Workshop.
  • Review the Post Workshop Checklist.
  • Research programs and destinations, considering how each may impact your accommodations.
  • Schedule an appointment with the appropriate Education Abroad Advisor for each program of interest.
  • Meet with SDAC staff to discuss programs of interest, consider reasonable accommodations, and request that SDAC share the accommodation request(s) with the EA office. It may be necessary to also discuss your study abroad plans with your treating provider.
  • Decide on a program and complete the application. If you are applying to a non-UVA program, make sure you disclose your disability or medical condition to the provider as they will likely be involved in working on your request for accommodations.
  • Attend pre-departure orientation and confirm your accommodations, discuss your plans with your family and your doctor (when applicable).

Additional Tips for a Successful Experience:

  • Remain flexible when working with an advisor to choose the best program for you.
  • Be mindful that other countries may accommodate disabilities in different ways. Take time to research the various types of accommodations for your disability in the host country.
  • Be open to various ways your disability may be accommodated.
  • Take time to learn as much as you can about your host culture and what their perspectives are regarding disabilities. Look up important vocabulary words relating to your disability in the host language.

For more information about access abroad and scholarship opportunities, see:

First Generation Students Abroad

As a first generation college student, you already have what it takes to embark on a study abroad experience after navigating the process of applying for college, and forging your own path to study here at UVA. You may also have unique challenges regarding explaining the reason and value of an education abroad experience to your family as well as specific financial needs, but they do not have to be a barrier to a successful abroad experience.

Diversity Abroad – Includes information and questions to consider when planning to study abroad

Georgetown and Northwestern – Additional tips, questions, and resources

Heritage Seekers Abroad

Going abroad gives students a wonderful way to explore their own cultural heritage. Whether you are going to a region that was home to your distant relatives, or revisiting the place of your own birth, you inevitably will be confronted with a range of emotions and experiences. You may expect to feel at home, but find yourself identifying with your American culture, or you may find that you identify deeply with your ancestral culture. You will want to consider in advance that you may have ideas about your destination that are outdated or specific to your family’s history. As in all aspects of preparing to study abroad, having an open mind will be a great asset.

Diversity Abroad – Includes information and questions to consider when planning to explore your cultural heritage abroad

Georgetown and Loyola Chicago – Additional tips, questions, and resources

"Seeking your roots"Abroadly Speaking Article from the University of Texas at Austin

Neither Here Nor There: The reality of Heritage Study Abroad

LGBTQ+ Abroad

It is advisable to do some reading before departure regarding culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation in the country where you are headed. Knowing about the culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation in the country where you are headed is especially essential. Laws regarding same-sex relationships differ from country to country so you should inform yourself about those before your program begins.” – – General tips and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers – Includes information on diversity and inclusion abroad; information and questions to consider regarding sexual orientation abroad; see also the Culture & Diversity Destination Guides for your country(ies) of interest as some include LGBTQ-specific information

Equaldex – Provides maps and fairly up-to-date information on a number of issues beyond legality, including prohibition on discrimination, employment, housing, etc. 

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – Click on the country/countries where you are going to find out the LGBTI news, law, mood and more for that region

NAFSA’s Rainbow Special Interest Group – Additional resources and information for LGBTQ students abroad

National Center for Transgender Equality – Resources related to travel, including what to expect at the airport

Unpacked – This guide offers LGBTQ+ students insight into how other students have negotiated their identity and sexuality in a host country where both the culture at large and the norms within the local LGBTQ+ community may each be quite different from their home country

Race and Ethnicity Abroad

Every year across the US, more US ethnic and racial minorities are choosing to study abroad. As you begin to prepare for your abroad experience, it is important to consider how your race or ethnicity will be viewed abroad. Some students who are in the minority in the US may study in a location where their race is the majority, and others may find that they are in the minority for the first time. You may find yourself a subject of unwanted attention and assumptions, especially from children. Thinking about the culture you will be entering, and how their perception of you may be quite different from your self-perception is an important step in your preparation. - Includes information and questions to consider when planning to study abroad

The All Abroad website  - Offers mentors who are students, parents, and advisers and are comfortable with addressing diversity concerns in the context of learning abroad. Also available are specific resources for African-American, Asian Pacific Islander American, Hispanic-American and Native-American students.

Race Abroad  - A resource for American's of Color Preparing to Live Abroad

Unpacked – This guide offers narratives from fellow study abroad students who have studied abroad, discussing how being a member of an underserved racial or ethnic group impacted their study abroad experience.

Religious Diversity Abroad

Whether you consider yourself religious or not, through study abroad you will be exposed to local religious practices and norms. You may find yourself confronted with a religious belief that is different from your own or a unique take on the religion you practice.  Before you embark on your study abroad program you are encouraged to research the role religion plays in your host culture, and how members of the local community may perceive your religion.

Department of State – While focused on faith-based international travel (missionary work, pilgrimage, etc.), this page contains resources for travelers practicing their faith abroad

Diversity Abroad – Includes information and questions to consider when planning for your time abroad

George Washington and Northwestern – Additional tips, questions, and resources – A blog about religion and study abroad from a Peace Corps student

U.S. News & World Report – Article about connecting with religious communities as a study abroad student

Women Abroad

Despite our personal beliefs about what women should have the right to do around the world, we need to reach a balance of maintaining our identity and respecting the culture we are visiting. Women face unique challenges as we travel abroad. While we are excited to meet new people, we also have to think about our personal safety. Understanding cultural differences in the areas of sex roles, verbal and non-verbal communication and the reputation of foreign women can empower us as we go abroad.”

- from American Women Abroad by Holly Wilkinson-Ray

Many American women traveling abroad are adventurous, independent and eager to meet new people. Make the most of your time overseas and become involved in a variety of activities. In the United States, women are used to being active: talking with people they don't know, making friends quickly, and going out at night. Yet, in some parts of the world the role of women is to stay at home. Friends are made through family ties, not at night in a bar. There are often strong differences between how women are expected to act in public and in private. Dress, behavior, activity, eye contact, and topics of conversation are shaped by spoken and unspoken cultural norms.

Traveling alone, frequenting bars at night, and making eye contact with men is sometimes dangerous. The non-verbal messages that we send in a different cultural context may surprise us all. Media images of female celebrities and students on spring break have created powerful, lingering stereotypes of American women. As American women jog in the streets of Cairo, wear shorts in Kenya, and smile at people in the Paris metro, they may unintentionally reinforce stereotypes.

Being culturally sensitive is one step towards understanding and integrating into your host culture. Be observant of gender-specific roles, customs, and norms. Getting to know women in the host culture can help explain what you observe and how to navigate the norms and expectations.

Department of State – Their travel pages include a section for women travelers – Includes more information on Diversity & Inclusion Abroad: Women Abroad

Go! Girl Guides – Publishes the world's first series of travel guidebooks made specifically for women

Unpacked – This guide offers insight and tips into cultural differences, and topics such as dating while abroad – A website that includes valuable information and study abroad safety tips for female students