Cultural and Diversity Resources
We seek to ensure that all students at Tufts have the opportunity to study abroad. You possess a unique set of skills, life experiences, and perspectives that can enhance the study-abroad experience not only for you, but also for other students on your program as well as for your host communities. Every student will have different challenges in preparing for and navigating the study-abroad experience. Your experience will be unique to you, depending on your individual intersectional identities and cultural background in relation to the majority culture of your host community.
While abroad, you may find that there is more openly-expressed curiosity about you and your background. Sometimes, the host community may be more ethnically and racially homogenous than what you might be used to, and the resultant lack of familiarity with and sensitivity to issues of diversity and difference may manifest in both overt and subtle displays of prejudice and intolerance. In some countries, there may exist more conservative belief systems or attitudes regarding sexuality and gender identity and expression, and there may be less tolerance of non-conformance to those cultural norms. You may find some of the host community's values and ways of expressing them to be insensitive, distasteful, and/or hurtful. In many cases, you may find that attitudes and behaviors surrounding difference may stem more from lack of experience with people of diverse backgrounds and identities than from malice or ill will. While it can be helpful to remember that this is often the case, encountering increased attention, insensitivity, or outright discriminatory language and behavior in your host community can nonetheless be disconcerting and disappointing. And it can be frustrating to feel (or be told) that such attitudes and behaviors are generally regarded as "acceptable" because they are "just part of the culture."
Study abroad can also force you to see the world through a different lens than the one you’re used to. For example, students who have lived most of their lives as part of the “majority” culture of their home community may have a chance to live within the “non-majority” culture of their host community; while students who have lived most of their lives as part of the “non-majority” culture of their home community may experience being (or appearing to be) a member of the “majority” culture within their host community or being part of a “non-majority” culture different from the one within which they have lived most of their lives. In most cases, however, you will find that certain aspects of your unique identity will be challenged through the course of the study-abroad experience, and the ways in which these aspects are challenged will vary depending upon your own intersectional identity as well as upon the host community and its particular sociopolitical history. Partly because of these challenges, students often find that study abroad is a unique and rewarding opportunity to explore personal identity and to gain a more complex and nuanced understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
We recommend that you do some research on the sociopolitical history, dominant belief systems, and cultural norms of your host community and also talk to students who have studied abroad there (or read stories about their experiences) so that you might prepare yourself for the attitudes and behaviors you might encounter. You might also think about potential strategies for dealing with disconcerting situations that might arise while you are abroad. The strength, adaptability, and resiliency you have cultivated through your life as you have navigated multiple environments and encountered a wide variety of worldviews will serve you well in this regard! Your program should also be able to provide support in-country and/or connect you with local resources.
On the sidebar you will find links to a few select resources and articles that may help you prepare for the transition to the new social and cultural milieu of your study-abroad host community.
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