Diversity & Identity Abroad
Issues of diversity and identity are deeply integrated into every culture around the world. Travelers from the U.S. should always research the cultural norms and local points of view on these issues before their departure. It is important to understand how your identities may be perceived in your host culture, especially in places where those identities may be treated differently than they are in U.S. society.
Racial & Ethnic Diversity
Ethnic and racial differences and relationships are varied among cultures. Members of minority groups in the U.S. may find themselves part of a racial or ethnic majority when they arrive at their destination. Others may find themselves part of a minority for the first time abroad. In some countries, you may be perceived as an American first, regardless of what your ethnic or racial identities are.
It is always important to understand the norms around race and identity in your host country. Here are some tips to prepare:
- Consider the racial and ethnic history of your destination country, and how that may inform its present cultural norms.
- Learn about laws or protections around racial and ethnic groups.
- Consider how people of your ethnicity or race may be treated or perceived at your destination. Are you likely to be viewed the same way as you are in the U.S., or in a different way?
On campus, UK's office for Institutional Diversity offers resources that may assist in your preparation, as part of their mission to support UK's commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
The Center for Global Education's PLATO Project offers additional resources geared toward student travelers. Click here for information about discrimination abroad, and here for links to resources for underrepresented student groups.
If you are ever the victim of a bias incident, whether at home or abroad, you may receive additional support from the University by filing a Bias Incident Report, at this link.
It is very important for members of the LGBTQ* community to consider the ways that sexual identities, gender identities and gender expressions are perceived in their host culture. In some places, people may be more open and accepting of these identities than in mainstream U.S. culture. In others, being identified as a member of the LGBTQ* community could be dangerous, or put you at legal risk. Consider these points:
- Are there anti-LGBTQ* laws in place at your destination? What do the laws in your host country look like in terms of supporting LGBTQ* individuals?
- Are sexuality and gender taboo topics of conversation in your host culture?
- Are there safety considerations that you should be aware of?
- How will you reconcile your human rights with the cultural values of your host country?
- Are there limitations on freedom of expression at your destination that could impact you?
- What role do members of transgender communities play in your host culture?
Remember, gender markers are central parts of many legal documents, including passports. For some individuals, changing gender markers on documents is an important process for affirming their identity. UK students and employees who are planning to travel internationally and are considering changing a legal gender marker may find the U.S. Department of State's website on "gender designation change" to be helpful.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association offers resources on its website to help you explore safety and legal considerations that you may encounter abroad. Additional resources are available through the U.S. Department of State.
UK's Office of LGBTQ* Resources also provides support to members of the UK community. More information about their services can be found at this link.
UK employees traveling with for business purposes with their domestic partners or same-sex spouses should be aware that they are eligible for coverage under UK's International Travel Medical Insurance plan, subject to certain stipulations.