Preparing for Life Abroad

You may find that attitudes about race, religion, and sexual orientation that you take for granted in the U.S. are viewed differently abroad. Race, gender, and sexual identity issues in the host country will be approached and viewed differently from those with which you are familiar in the U.S.

It will not be uncommon for you to learn about different religious practices while also trying to understand where your own beliefs fit in to the wider scheme of things. Should you have special needs, you will have to consider what types of accommodations are available to you in your host country.

  • Accessibility

    The Office of Overseas Study encourages all students to consider making study abroad part of their degree program at Indiana University. We welcome students of different abilities who meet our eligibility requirements to participate in our programs.

    In an attempt to assist you with what may be a challenging transition from your life here in the United States, we:

    • Work closely with the Disability Services for Students Office regarding your special needs
    • Will assist you, in conjunction with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange within Mobility International, in finding the appropriate program for you 
    • Include sections in our predeparture handbooks about different abilities 
    • Communicate with program staff abroad about accommodations you may need

    The Access Abroad website, developed by the University of Minnesota, also provides resources to assist students with disabilities who wish to study abroad.

    While we cannot guarantee that any or all of our program sites can accommodate your needs or interests, we will do our best to inform you of your options abroad. If you would like to discuss any aspect of the study abroad experience, related to your abilities or otherwise, please contact the Office of Overseas Study.

  • Gender

    Students will discover that growing up in the United States has prepared them for different gender roles in society than the ones their contemporaries in other countries expect. Since you will be viewed according to the gender expectations of the host culture, you may feel uncomfortable at times. This is particularly true for female or transgender students who may find themselves the targets of unwanted attention.

    Try to understand the gender roles within the culture to which you are traveling. What may be appropriate and friendly behavior in the U.S. may bring unwanted attention in another culture.

    You may find the following resources useful:

    Culture Shock
    The CultureShock! series of books published by Marshall Cavendish is useful to aid in understanding gender issues in your host country. The books are available for many destinations at bookstores such as Barnes and Noble.

    Her Own Way: Advice for the Woman Traveller
    The Canadian Consular Affairs Bureau provides information about security, packing, culture shock and more in this article for women travelers.

    Sexual Assault Support & Help for Americans Abroad 
    This network offers resources to assist American citizens and legal permanent residents who are sexually assaulted in a foreign country.

    Sexual Harassment And Prevention In College Students Studying Abroad (SAFETI)
    The SAFETI online newsletter addresses issues of safety in study abroad. This article explores how women can minimize their risk of being sexually harassed while traveling abroad.

    La Bella Experienza
    This book, by an IU alum, provides resources and advise for women studying abroad in Italy.

    Women Travelers
    Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) lists a number of tips for women travelers. The FCO is the department of the British Government responsible for overseas relations and foreign affairs.

  • LGBTQ+

    The Office of Overseas Study encourages all students to consider making study abroad part of their degree program at Indiana University. We welcome LGBTQ+ students who meet our eligibility requirements to participate in our programs. In an attempt to assist you with what may be a challenging transition from your life here in the United States, we:

    • Provide a bibliography about the LGBTQ+ community from an international perspective.
    • Include sections in our handbooks about sexual identity.
    • Encourage our program sites overseas to keep information available about local LGBTQ+ support groups.
    • Stay in close contact with the LGBTQ+ Culture Center on the IUB campus. 

    If you wish to discuss any aspect of the study abroad experience, related to your sexual orientation or otherwise, please contact an advisor in the Office of Overseas Study.

    Additional resources and information about LGBTQ+ issues abroad can be found at NAFSA's Rainbow Special Interest Group website. This site is maintained by NAFSA volunteers and produced by international education professionals who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues.

    Consider applying for a Fund for Education Abroad Rainbow Scholarship for deserving LGBTQ+ students who aims to participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.

  • Health & Safety

    With preparation and ongoing awareness of safety and health issues, living abroad can be just as safe as living in the United States. Below is a list of sites that can help you prepare for studying and living abroad.

    Checklist of Health and Safety Items
    The Office of Overseas Study has created this checklist of health and safety items for you to prepare and consider for your study abroad experience.

    Center for Disease Control (CDC) Traveler's Health
    The CDC compiles travel health information about specific regions of the world.

    AIDS and Study Abroad
    Information about Prevention of HIV Infection and AIDS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers' Health Yellow Book

    IU Overseas Study Safety and Responsibility Guidelines
    In order to have the safest and most productive experience possible, students and their parents should be familiar with the roles they and staff play in making programs both rewarding and safe.

    Safety Abroad Handbook
    This website contains background information on health and safety, as well as relevant questions, a checklist, a sample emergency card, and useful words and phrases to know.

    Students Abroad Travel Information
    The U.S. Department of State offers advice and information targeted to students planning to travel and study abroad.

    International Travel Information including Travel Warnings and Country Information Sheets
    The U.S. Department of State offers reports about the state of every country around the world.

    Travel Warning on Drug Offenses Abroad
    The U.S. Department of State explains the dangers and legal ramifications of using and transporting drugs abroad.

  • Diversity

    We recognize that students of different ethnic backgrounds may experience challenges while transitioning from life in the United States to life abroad.

    Students may find that physical features that distinguish them from the host population may result in stares, comments, or sometimes overt prejudice. Program staff both here and abroad can advise students about how to minimize negative interactions at your program site. Please check our pre-departure handbooks for information about race/ethnicity.

    Refer to these study abroad resources that have been designed especially for students from diverse backgrounds:

    Diversity Issues in Study Abroad
    This is a collection of detailed reflections from Brown University students regarding various diversity issues they experienced abroad. You can also find additional information about diversity in study abroad on the Brown University Office of International Programs website.

    Asian Americans: Factors Influencing the Decision to Study Abroad
    This study focuses on the factors that impact where and why Asian Americans study abroad.

    Top Ten Reasons for African American Students to Study Abroad
    This article addresses the specific benefits of studying abroad for African American students.

    If you wish to discuss any aspect of the study abroad experience, related to your ethnicity or otherwise, please contact any of the advisors in the Office of Overseas Study.

  • Religion

    Use this resource list to explore religious traditions different from yours or find resources abroad for your religion.

    The following list was based on one compiled by the NAFSA Knowledge Community on Education Abroad's Committee on Underrepresentation in Education Abroad. Knowledge Community members are professionals who work with study abroad.

    General Sites about Religion

    The Pluralism Project
    Based at Harvard University, The Pluralism Project "was developed by Diana L. Eck at Harvard University to study and document the growing religious diversity of the United States, with a special view to its new immigrant religious communities." The focus is primarily on the practice of these religious traditions in the US today.

    International Religious Freedom
    This site explores the state of religious freedom, country by country, as seen by the U.S. Department of State.

    Sites about Specific Religions

    Explore information and find global resources on the following faith traditions:


  • Sustainability

    We realize that spending time traveling for a study abroad program can lead to concerns about sustainability. However, there are several steps you can take to stay green while you’re traveling and living in a foreign country.

    Finding your place
    According to a 2011 list of the top ten greenest European cities by Fodor's Travel, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Copenhagen were recognized by the European Green Capital (EGC) for their eco-friendliness. recognized 15 cities for greener living in 2007, including Copenhagen, London, Sydney, Barcelona, Freiburg, and Quebec City. 

    Getting where you need to go
    If you have to fly, choose non-stop flights and airlines with all-economy seating. Pack lightly. Once you’ve arrived at your destination for your program, use public transportation, rent a bicycle, or walk. When this isn’t feasible, share rides whenever possible.

    Water conservation
    Your host country may not have the available supply of water that we’re used to in the U.S. Start shortening your showers before you leave home. You can also save money and cause less waste by carrying a reusable water bottle—water might not be free in public places like you’re used to. Wash your own clothes and avoid laundromats, which tend to use more water. Learn more about the effects of tourism on water consumption from the Case for Responsible Tourism report.

    Shopping abroad
    Buy and eat local when you can. Avoid disposable items and instead, purchase reusable alternatives with minimal or no packaging.

    Minimizing electricity use
    Turn off the lights when you leave a room and unplug your laptop and other devices when not in use. Hang your clothes out to dry if you have the space where you’re staying.

    Additional resources:

    Sustainable Study Abroad (Middlebury College)
    Information about Middlebury's commitment to addressing global warming and Sustainable Study Abroad Grants available for students studying abroad through their programs.

    Earth Day Network Footprint Calculator
    Calculate your impact on the planet.

    Green Passport Program
    A program for students interested in minimizing their impact on the environment and participating/giving back to host communities.

    World Wide Opportunities Organic Farms (WWOOF)
    A network for those who wish to volunteer with organic farmers in exchange for food and accommodations.

    Sustainable Travel Blog: Impact Travel Alliance
    The global community's initiatives are based on education and advocacy around sustainable tourism - travel that has a positive impact on a destination's environment, economy, and culture.