Identity and Diversity
When considering travel to any country, travelers may want to consider aspects of their identity and how these may be perceived and treated in the local culture. We encourage travelers to do some research into social norms, cultural mores, and local practices before departure. Travelers will want to participate as much as possible in the host culture and should be prepared for the experience, which can be both personally challenging and rewarding.
You are bound to encounter cultural differences in many spheres of life. Keep in mind how a U.S. college student may appear to local people. Notice differences in the behavior of students of your gender and age. As in the United States, attitudes regarding gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation vary by region. Each country has unique histories, cultural values and social norms that are associated with these topics. At Baylor, and most colleges and universities in the U.S., we believe that cultural understanding is an important part of our community and diversity is critical to our learning. We expect that our students will be sensitive to new cultural contexts and enter any situation willing to learn and be open. You may find that people in your host country believe in the same ideals. In fact, some countries may have laws and attitudes that are more progressive than in the United States. This may allow you time to reflect and a new sense of freedom and exploration. Alternatively, you may find a lack of understanding about the importance of cultural sensitivity and diversity. Be aware that prejudices which exist in American culture may be found in your host culture as well. You could experience behavior, language and terminology which you may find offensive. This may make you feel ostracized and isolated, which is compounded by being away from support networks in the United States. Again, it’s important to research and understand the cultural climate of your study abroad location. This will create realistic expectations of what your experience could entail.