Identity and Inclusion in Off-Campus Programs

Studying off-campus can be a transformational experience in a student’s academic and personal development.  These programs offer opportunities for students to engage first-hand with their subject matter while living and learning in a culturally immersive environment.  In an increasingly global workforce, the cross-cultural skills gained from off-campus study are in more demand now than ever. 

Lawrence is committed to the idea that these powerful experiences be inclusive of students from all backgrounds.  As you consider your options for studying off-campus, it is important that you are aware of and research factors that may impact your experiences living in the host culture.  The information on the following pages is a starting point for your research into identity in a different cultural context. 

When you are confronted by stereotypes, you have two options: you can either weaken a stereotype or reinforce it. You likely cannot significantly change the stereotypes held in the world, but you can challenge them. If you face bias abroad, the best way to manage is to learn about the area and people, to find creative ways of bridging the perceived gap between “you” and “them,” and to ask for help.  Ask yourself how your reaction to a situation might influence the way others of your background, identity, or country are perceived in your host country. 

Discrimination of one form or another exists in all countries, but the targets of discrimination, as well as the nature and content of the discriminatory practices, may differ significantly from those found in the United States. You may wish to speak about these specific issues with recent study abroad returnees, international students from the country or region where you will be studying, faculty from or with experiences in the region in which you are interested, or consult resources specific to the area. 

Know that your program will have support staff who will help you through navigating the realities of local life and customs, you are always able to contact Lawrence’s Off-Campus Programs office regarding a situation, and you can report to LU’s bias incident reporting system.  Don’t let the possibility of discrimination keep you from your pursuit of the many benefits of studying abroad.

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