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Diversity in Learning Abroad

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Women Travelers

Gender Identity, Expression & Sexual Orientation

Veterans, ROTC & Military Personnel

Students of Color

Students with Disabilities


Women Travelers

Unfortunately, women face special risks while traveling abroad. Other cultures often have stereotypes about American women. Based on their impressions from TV and movies, people abroad often believe that American women are looking for sexual adventure. These stereotypes can create unwanted attention and harassment. Many cultures also traditionally treat women differently. Gender equity is not universal. It may be common for men to make noises, gawk, or make sexually suggestive comments to women. Women do not need to accept the unwanted attention and stereotypes, but need to learn how to cope in uncomfortable situations and even prevent them from happening. The following are tips for staying safe and dealing with unwanted attention:

  • Observe the local women. They can provide insights for dealing with uncomfortable situations.
    • How do they dress?
    • How do they act around men?
    • How do they react to unwanted attention?
    • How do they act in social situations?
    • What are their rules about having both romantic and friendly relationships with men?
  • Don’t walk alone at night. Travel in small groups, not alone!
  • Leave a trail...let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back.
  • Follow your instincts! If you are uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation.
  • Dress modestly.
  • Drink responsibly!

Women also face unique health challenges abroad. Birth control can be heavily regulated and hard to obtain in foreign countries. If you use contraceptives, you should be sure to take a sufficient supply to last your entire program. We also recommend that you take enough feminine hygiene supplies to last the duration of your program. The availability of these items varies greatly depending on the host culture and destination. In many countries, these items are not available on the shelf in a drug store. In some cases, you will have to specifically ask a clerk or pharmacist for the supplies you need to buy. Women studying outside of Western Europe need to be aware that tampons may not be available at all in your host country. If you intend to use tampons, we encourage you to take them with you.

If you would like additional information about women travelers, we encourage you to stop by the Learning Abroad Office (Union 159). We are happy to discuss your concerns and provide insights from our own experience. You could also review the information safety information on Peace Corps website for additional ideas and suggestions.

Gender Identity, Expression & Sexual Orientation

Throughout the world, cultures respond differently to questions of gender and sexual orientation. Learning more about the local laws, norms, and expectations associated with gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation before departure can make or break your experience abroad. When selecting a program, we encourage you to consider the culturally-based ideas and definitions of sexual identity and gender in the countries you plan to visit. Some cultures are openly hostile when confronted with differences in gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation. These ideas and practices may have an impact on the way people interact with you, your level of culture shock, your safety, and your overall experience. The staff members in the Learning Abroad Office are available to assist you in researching destinations and discussing your options.

Veterans, ROTC & Military Personnel

The Learning Abroad Office has a long tradition of working with veterans, ROTC students, and other military personnel. An experience abroad can provide valuable professional insights as well as financial benefits to these individuals. Additionally, there are sources of funding earmarked specifically for these audiences that can assist with the expense of a learning abroad program.

If you are an ROTC student, active duty service member or reservist, we recommend that you begin the application process early. Active duty, reserve, and Guard members may need special permission from commanding officers or other government agencies to participate, particularly if you hold a clearance or have travel restrictions established by the military. Make sure you let your command know you are planning on traveling abroad. If you intend to use any type of government funding, there may be specific restrictions and a lengthy approval process for using government funds.

There are several resources for Veterans who wish to learn abroad. Students intending to use Voc Rehab or GI Bill funding should contact theUniversity of Utah Veterans Support Center as soon as possibleto begin the process of applying through VA! In general, we recommend that you use the following guidelines when selecting a program and completing an application:

  • Start the process early. To ensure that you have sufficient time to receive approval, start early! We recommend that you submit/commit to a program application no less than 8 weeks before the application deadline for your program.
  • Attend the Learning Abroad for Veterans Workshop. The Learning Abroad Office holds a workshop for specifically for veterans. Keep an eye out for announcements and updates.
  • Understand the process for getting approval. Learning abroad programs will require special approval from the VA. If you want to use GI Bill funding for a learning abroad program, make sure you understand the approval process.
  • Visit the Learning Abroad Office. VA staff members are not learning abroad experts, so it is up to you to provide the information that they need to accurately assess your request for funding! The Learning Abroad Office has documentation and program descriptions that will help you. Contact us before you petition for approval!
  • Apply for funding before you are accepted to the program. Be aware that you can begin the approval process for funding before you receive an official acceptance from our office. We recommend that you consider this option to ensure that you have enough time to complete the process.
  • Consider a program that grants U of U credit instead of transfer credit. We recommend that you select a program that offers U of U credit if you wish to use VA funding. While it is possible to get VA funding for programs abroad that offer transfer credit, students have had difficulties receiving approval for these programs.
  • Contact the University of Utah Veterans Support Center on campus early in your planning process. They can assist you in filling out the required paperwork to receive funding through the GI Bill or Voc Rehab.

For more information about our programs, contact the Learning Abroad Office.

Students of Color

Concepts of race and ethnicity are often culturally-based. When you visit a new country, you may be faced with new expectations, stereotypes, and norms related to your race or ethnicity. As you prepare for your experience, you may be concerned about possible discrimination and prejudice while learning abroad. Conversely, you may be looking forward to experiencing life as a member of the majority population or planning a journey of self-discovery to the country or region of your family's heritage.

Whatever reasons you have for learning abroad, you will find that confronting and coping with your cultural adjustment, as painful as it may be at times, can be a positive growth experience. It may be challenging, but it can present you with unique experiences and insights into your own cultural identity and beliefs. It can also provide unparalleled personal growth, professional skills, and self-awareness.

As you prepare for your program, we encourage you to research attitudes and customs related to race and ethnicity in the countries you plan to visit. Investing time and energy into researching these elements of culture will leave you better equipped to handle the challenges you might face and ready to take advantage of the benefits your host culture may offer.

Students with Disabilities

In the past ten years, there has been an increase in the number of students with disabilities who successfully participated in learning abroad programs. The U is committed to helping as many students learn abroad as possible, and for students with disabilities, planning is the key to successful learning abroad experiences.

Be aware that traveling abroad is very different from traveling in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may not be applicable outside of U.S. borders. As such, foreign countries are not obligated to make buildings, classrooms, airports, transportation, or education programs accessible. Despite these challenges, the U is committed to making these opportunities available to as many students as possible, and we will make every effort to make reasonable accommodations in the host country.

Learning Abroad and the Center for Disability and Access (CDA) work together to help students with disabilities participate in successful experiences abroad. The Learning Abroad Handbook is full of tips to help you plan effectively.  Takethese steps to get started!

  1. Explore your options. Attend the Global U Expo and search for programs. We also encourage interested students to attend a Learning Abroad 101 session to help them understand the program options.  Consider the connections to your educational and personal goals as well as the requirements for participation. Start identifying potential programs well before you plan to go. 
  2. Plan early. If you haven’t already done so, register with the CDA. Communicate with a Learning Abroad Coordinator, your advisor in Disability Services, and your academic advisor about your interest in Learning Abroad.  Ask about any factors that may influence your program selection, relative to both your academic requirements and potential accommodation needs (What is the environment like? Where will you travel? What are the housing arrangements? What types of medical care are available? What public transportation is available?). It may be helpful to talk to students with similar disabilities that have learned abroad. If there are no previous U of U participants with a disability similar to yours, Learning Abroad may be able to connect you with non-U of U students or travelers who have studied at the location of your choice.
  3. Select the program and apply. After engaging with your Learning Abroad Coordinator and your Disability Advisor to discover which program is the best fit for you, apply for your program.
  4. Request accommodations for your program.  The U wants your experience abroad to be as enjoyable as possible.  For that reason, we ask that students request accommodations at least 8 weeks before departure.  If you prefer, you can request accommodations before beginning your program application as well.  The steps below outline the basic process for requesting accommodations for Learning Abroad programs.

Step 1Contact the Center for Disability and Access (CDA) to request accommodations.

Step 2:  Meet with CDA to determine your needs and eligibility. CDA will work with Learning Abroad & faculty to determine if we can meet your needs.

Step 3Work with Learning Abroad, CDA, and faculty to provide the accommodation onsite.

Step 4Enjoy your program!

Please note that the University will do everything possible to meet your accommodation request, but we cannot guarantee that accommodations will be feasible or available for your selected program. Accommodation requests after you arrive in country may not be fulfilled. 

   5.  Prepare and go! Continue to work with your Disability Advisor to fully plan for your program. Explore the world and have a great experience! 

If you would like to do research about international travel for students with disabilities, consider visiting the Mobility International website and the U.S. Department of Transportation Guide to the Rights of Disabled Air Travelers. You can also stop by the Learning Abroad (Union 159) to speak with a Peer Advisor or Learning Abroad Coordinator. We are happy to discuss your concerns and provide insights from our own experiences abroad!

The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. Reasonable prior notice is needed to arrange accommodations. Evidence of practices not consistent with these policies should be reported to the University’s ADA/Section 504 Coordinator: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 201 S. Presidents Cr., Rm 135, Salt Lake City, UT. 84112. (801)581-8365 (V/TDD).

More questions?  We’re here to help!  Contact Learning Abroad (801-581-5849 or or the Center for Disability and Access for more information!

Last Updated: 8/29/18