In this section, we refer primarily, but not exclusively, to cisgender-identified women and men, as transgender-identified individuals or gender-queer individuals may have additional considerations—see the LGBTQ+ Off-Campus section for additional resources.
Gender roles vary from culture to culture. Women are treated differently and have different day-to-day lives in different cultures. Some cultures rely on gender as a primary way to define identity, while many cultures see gender as one of many factors that might define identity. Your host culture’s attitudes towards gender may not always align with your own values or experience. In certain locations, women in particular may feel significantly different about what their gender identity means abroad than at home, and this may affect decisions about behavior, relationships, dress, safety, travel plans, and everyday routines.
There is no “right or wrong” way to behave as a woman abroad; all choices about personal expression are valid. At the same time, it is important to recognize that in some locations and cultures, women’s actions and personal expression can send different cultural signals that may not be understood in the same way as they are in the U.S., and they may have unintended consequences. These consequences can range from feeling uncomfortable or awkward in an unfamiliar situation to, in the worst (and rarest) cases, being put in danger of physical or emotional harm. When making decisions about behavior, actions, and relationships abroad, all students are urged to put their safety first. You are also encouraged to inform yourself, before departure and during your program, of local cultural cues and gender roles in order to help make the best decisions for you. You should be aware that, in many countries, the attitudes regarding sexual behavior and sexual consent differ significantly from those in the United States. The perceived seriousness of crimes of sexual violence, such as rape, may also differ. Behavior that violates local social mores may be seen as justification, consent, or provocation. Please exercise caution and make certain to inform yourself of what procedures to follow in the event of incident.
It is just as important for men to understand the prevailing gender roles in their program location, and to be sensitive to the challenges that women in the program may face that men may not. Men are encouraged to recognize situations in which men can, by their own behavior and actions, meaningfully reduce women’s exposure to risk and harassment.
The Lawrence University Sexual Misconduct Policy applies while you are studying on a Lawrence off-campus study program and SHARE (Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education) resources and processes are available to you. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with this policy and to let us know if you have questions about this information in the context of off-campus study. If you are the victim of sexual misconduct, you are encouraged to inform on-site program staff as soon as possible to provide support and connect you with the appropriate resources. SHARE and Lawrence’s Off-Campus Programs office are available to assist you as possible.