Matters of personal identity can impact all students on a study abroad program. For some, it may be the first time you are a minority in your community. For others, you might notice that you are getting attention based on your identity, either in a positive or negative way. Though you cannot always control what type of attention you attract, you have control over how you respond to this attention and we’re here to help navigate and prepare you for these situations.
How you identify yourself in the United States may differ from how people will view you abroad. As a student on a study abroad experience, people in your host country will likely first identify you as an American, which may be different from how you classify yourself at home. While some of you may think of yourself as a poor college student, (and may be using loans to pay for your program); you could be seen as someone who financially well-off by people in your host country, simply because you were able to travel.
What are your identities?
We encourage you to think about the parts that make up your identity (e.g., sister, student, Asian American, Jewish, female, male, etc.). Some aspects of your identity may be more easily observed by others (e.g., sex, skin color, age, etcetera) while other parts are less observable (e.g, sister, United States citizen, mental health, volunteer, etcetera).
- How will you want to talk (or not talk) about those parts of your identity with people in the host country?
- How will you react if someone comments on an easily observable part of your identity in a way that offends you?
- How might your identity change while you are abroad?
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an institutional member of the Diversity Abroad Network and our study abroad advisors have access to online resources that explore important issues around identity. You too can create a free account and begin exploring. Below are some more resources that you may find helpful.