Diversity and Identity Abroad

The Office of International Education is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and encourages and supports the participation of students representing different groups based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, ability, nationality, and religion. The talents, experiences, and worldviews that diverse participants bring to their study abroad experiences are valuable assets not only to the DU community, but also to communities abroad.

In addition to the educational, travel, health and safety, and adjustment issues facing all international sojourners, many DU students may have additional identity-related considerations when deciding whether, where, and how to take advantage of international opportunities. We encourage you to consult the resources included below, and invite students to discuss questions and concerns with their international education advisor.

  • Race, Culture, and Ethnicity

    Race, culture, and ethnicity may present both challenges and opportunities abroad in terms of host country attitudes toward racial issues. Many students find differing levels of sensitivity in the host country difficult – in some cultures, it is common to give individuals nicknames based on physical characteristics such as weight, hair color/texture, and skin color. This habit can be disconcerting for those from the U.S., but is often not meant to be offensive, and can even be intended as a term of endearment.

    Studying abroad can represent an opportunity to act as a cultural ambassador and to educate host nationals about cultural groups within the United States; there is often great interest in other countries in the history and culture of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx. This interest presents great opportunities for conversations regarding your culture(s), media stereotypes, and diversity issues within your host country.

    Alongside those opportunities, some students might also:

    • be essentialized/tokenized as representatives of their racial/ethnic group beyond being put on the spot for their U.S. nationality (e.g., "What do [all] Latinos in the U.S. think about your immigration policies?" Or, "When did you immigrate to the U.S.?" OR, "You speak English very well!")
    • be exoticized or stereotyped based on American media portrayals (e.g., expectations of Native American dress, names, technological awareness, or living arrangements based entirely on old Western movies)
    • be expected to be highly critical of the U.S. or experts in the experiences of their ancestral homelands (e.g., Native American students expected to hate U.S. for its treatment of their people, third generation Japanese-American quizzed on anime, or African-Americans expected to have detailed knowledge of contemporary African conflicts).

    While some students choose study abroad destinations where there are very few persons of color, others might choose countries where communities of color make up the majority. Some students may be interested in “heritage seeking” and will opt to study in a location connected to their religious, linguistic, national, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. These types of locations present a different set of possibilities, and may also include unexpected challenges. For example, community members may have high expectations regarding the cultural knowledge and linguistic capabilities of heritage seeking students.

    Regardless of your study abroad destination, you may find that your salient identities shift while abroad. Some students find that they are first viewed as a U.S. citizen rather than a person of the racial, ethnic, or cultural group they identify with, and this can provide an interesting opportunity to explore how these aspects of self intersect. Staying connected with other students from your similar identity who are also abroad can help you process and reflect on your experience as it happens.

    Researching your host country in advance can provide a better understanding of potential attitudes towards race and ethnicity in general and your own identities specifically. If you are interested in speaking with past participants, ask your international education advisor or the Cultural Center. You can also check with your OIE advisor regarding additional country-specific resources.


    Resources for students:

    • All Abroad.us is a clearinghouse for advice, information, and mentors to encourage more diversity within study abroad. This site includes group-specific information for African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latinx students.
    • Diversity Abroad.com offers destination-specific information, student advice and blogs, and information regarding financial and scholarships for diverse students.
    • "UNPACKED A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me"  - contains student written blog posts that explore various identities and perspectives in relation to study abroad with tips and considerations (provided by IFSA, a DU study abroad partner). 
    • If financing study abroad is a concern, see our scholarship page.
  • LGBTQI+ Students

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex (LGBTQI+) students face some special considerations when choosing a study abroad program. Laws pertaining to sexual orientation, same-sex sexual contact, and gender expression vary widely around the world, as do popular attitudes. Cultures also vary in terms of how sexual orientation and gender identities are defined and understood. Some countries are more liberal on these matters than the U.S. and some less. Moreover, whatever the general rule, there will always be pockets of difference and personal idiosyncrasies.

    When choosing a study abroad destination, it is important to consider the following questions:

    • How open do you want/need to be about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity while abroad? Some countries may be far more supportive of LGBTQI+ rights than in the U.S. In other cases, it may be inadvisable or even dangerous for you to come out to people in your host community. If you choose a location where you will need to hide your identity, how will this impact your overall study abroad experience?
    • Do you want/need to be part of a supportive LGBTQI+ community? Are there LGBTQI+ organizations on your host campus or in the community?
    • What are laws and cultural norms surrounding relationships and dating?
    • What types of housing options are available? If you will live with a host family, do you want to specifically request a family that is known to be supportive of LGBTQI+ students? Some past students have wanted to come out to their host families prior to arrival, while others prefer to get to know them first and then make that decision.
    • If you regularly utilize any health or counseling services at home, will these be available and covered by insurance abroad?
    • If your gender presentation is different from your legal sex, or if you are in the process of transition, what types of challenges might you face with travel, immigration, and documents?

    The U.S. Department of State provides some pointers for staying safe while abroad:

    • Remember you are subject to the laws, justice system, and cultural norms where you travel.
    • Be cautious of potentially risky situations. Don't do anything you wouldn't do at home.
    • Avoid excessive physical displays of affection in public, especially in more conservative countries or regions.
    • Watch out for entrapment campaigns. Police in some countries monitor websites, mobile apps, or meeting places, so be cautious connecting with the local community.
    • Be wary of new-found "friends." Criminals sometimes exploit the generally open and relaxed nature of the LGBTQI+ scene.
    • Some resorts or LGBTQI+ neighborhoods can be quite segregated. Be aware that local residents may not approve of expressions of sexuality when you are in surrounding areas.
    • You are more likely to experience difficulties in rural areas so be discreet.

    The resources below can help you learn more about laws, cultural norms, and other considerations regarding your study abroad experience. You may also contact your international education advisor or the Cultural Center with any questions, concerns, or for additional country-specific resources.

    Resources for LGBTQI+ students:

  • Disabilities and Learning Differences

    The University of Denver encourages all students to consider participation in study abroad. Students with disabilities who are interested in studying abroad are encouraged to contact the Office of International Education (OIE) and the Disabilities Services Program (DSP) early in the process. Because U.S. laws and regulations related to disabilities generally do not extend beyond this country's borders, and because study abroad sites vary greatly regarding their capacity for accommodation, students should make use of all campus resources to research appropriate programs and services available abroad. The OIE will work with students to identify study abroad opportunities which meet their individual needs.

    When considering a potential destination, it is important to consider the following:

    • Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way—learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
    • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disabilities. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.
    • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.

    Resources for LEP/DSP Students. Access Abroad and the DU OIE offer these quick tips for students with disabilities and learning differences going abroad:

    • Make sure to register with DSP at DU!
    • Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.
    • Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way—learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
    • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending the Know Before You Go and Regional Orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.
    • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
    • DU Disability Services Program
    • DU Learning Effectiveness Program
    • DU Health and Counseling Center
    • Students with Disabilities Abroad - Diversity Abroad is a web based resource that provides information about diversity and inclusion abroad.
    • Access Abroad - Developed by the University of Minnesota, this site is devoted to making existing international opportunities accessible to college students with all types of disabilities, in accordance with ADA regulations. This site has resources for students with disabilities, descriptions of typical accommodations for a variety of disabilities, and summaries of accommodations available in other countries
    • Mobility International USA, MIUSA, along with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, manages the National Clearinghouse of Disability and Exchange. MIUSA publishes books and other resources, many of which are free for you to download from its website. Publications include “A World Awaits You: A Journal of Success in International Exchange” and “Survival Strategies for Going Abroad: A Guide for People with Disabilities.”
    • If financing study abroad is a concern, see our scholarship page.
  • DACA

    The OIE stands with and for undocumented students. Please do not hesitate to meet with us! We are here to discuss program options and special considerations for all DU students.

    Resources for Study Abroad for Undocumented Students

  • Veterans and Military-Affiliated

    Students using VA benefits or the G.I Bill are eligible to study abroad; however, there are some important items you'll need to consider.

    The most important thing to know is that DU’s school certifying officials cannot be the ones to certify you for courses earned at an institution abroad; the institution awarding the credit must be the certifying body. Therefore, students who wish to use the GI Bill abroad will not be able to go through a DU partner program as DUPP student, but instead must directly enroll as a guest student and be certified by that institution. 

    As such, students cannot go through DU’s traditional study abroad partner program and use the GI Bill. In order to use the GI Bill abroad, the student will need to directly enroll at the foreign institution as a guest student. The student needs to ensure the following: 

    • The institution should already be approved to use VA benefits and appear in this database: https://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/searchInst.do#content-area  

    • The specific program at that institution will also need to appear in the database to be approved. 

    • There is a current School Certifying Official at that school prepared to certify the student. 

    • The classes that they intend to take will transfer back to DU for credit and will apply to their degree. The student should submit a Coursework Approval request in PioneerWeb for each class as soon as possible. 

    **Please note that this information is accurate as of summer 2022; however, you should reach out to VAcertify@du.edu to double check that this is the most up-to-date information as the VA can choose to change their requirements at any time, and students are responsible for knowing how their benefits will apply. ** 


    If you are using VA benefits for your study abroad, please contact the Office of International Education to set up an appointment with an advisor to discuss your options.