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Students digging a hole abroad

Diversity Abroad

Ours is truly an international community. Each year, more than 1,000 UT students study abroad in over 50 countries outside the United States, while more than 1,200 international students come to our college campus from at least 45 countries.

We’re proud that our students are as diverse as the places where they study abroad. Before you choose your program location, we encourage you to think about what it’s going to be like to be you abroad, the various ways you might identify yourself, and how these identities define you in America.

Undoubtedly, life abroad can be very different than what you’ve grown accustomed to at home or at UT. There are many things to consider before embarking on a study abroad experience. Here are a few:

Racial and ethnic relations vary by culture. While you’re abroad, you may be part of an ethnic majority for the first time in your life. Also, you could be presented with the opportunity to connect with and learn about your ancestral history and culture first-hand. Or you may find that being part of a community with a different racial and ethnic makeup can be an amazing learning experience.

Remember that in countries with ethnic or racial conflicts, you may be inadvertently identified with one group or another simply based on your appearance. On the other hand, perhaps you’ll be considered American first, and your ethnic or racial identity will be secondary. You can prepare yourself for the situations you may encounter by researching the minority, majority, and plurality racial and ethnic composition of your host country as well as exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations.

Questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about:

  • What are the cultural norms of my host country?
  • How will I be perceived in my host community?
  • Will there be other minority students in my program?
  • Will I experience racism or discrimination? Who can I contact if I do?

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Reach out to minority students who have recently studied abroad and ask them about their experiences.
  • Look at international news sources to get a sense of current political and societal issues in your host country.
  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 to provide emergency assistance to Americans. They won’t pass judgment on you and will protect your privacy.

International understanding of sex and gender can play an important role in your decision to study abroad. Being aware of legal rights or possible forms of discrimination (based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) will help guide you through your study abroad experience.

Cultures vary in terms of how sexuality and sexual identity are defined and understood. It’s important to be aware of and consider the implications of being identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in the host culture.

Questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about:

  • Does the right to be LGBTQIA in the United States conflict with my host country’s religious or cultural values and traditions?
  • What are gender relations in my host country?
  • What roles do transsexual people play in the host culture?
  • Are there any safety considerations I should know?

Tips to keep in mind:

  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 to provide emergency assistance to Americans. They won’t pass judgment on you and will protect your privacy.
  • As an American, you may already stand out. Outside gay neighborhoods or resorts, public displays of affection may draw even more attention. It is wise to use discretion.
  • Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments. The general openness of LGBT settings can sometimes be taken advantage of by criminals. Look out for yourself and your friends, especially late at night.

Students with disabilities may find new challenges to address before and during study abroad. Laws and cultural norms that impact accessibility vary from country to country. In the United States, for example, wheelchair accessibility or study aids for visual impairment are examples of disability-related needs that universities address on a regular basis, and federal laws govern how these issues are handled.

Depending on the type of program and location you choose, your needs may present a relatively uncommon scenario for a study abroad program provider to consider in an environment governed by different disability laws and social norms. While potentially challenging, these considerations are manageable and should not inhibit an international experience.

Questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about:

  • What is the learning and housing environment like? Are there any barriers that would impact my study abroad experience? How might I minimize those barriers?
  • What types of medical care are available?
  • What public transportation is available?

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep in mind that other countries have their own rules and regulations concerning the accommodation of learning disabilities and mobility limitations, and they are not obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.
  • When researching study abroad opportunities that interest you, explore information on each program relating to your individual needs, such as arranged and public transportation, housing, alternative test taking, and course requirements.

A nontraditional student is defined as someone who identifies with any of the following:

  • Did not enter postsecondary education immediately after high school
  • Works full time while enrolled at UT
  • Has a spouse and/or dependents

Participating in a study abroad program is a great career builder for any UT student. However, as a nontraditional student, you may face unique challenges, such as your responsibilities to family members or an employer. We encourage you to consider study abroad as an experience critical to your future success, and one worth investing in.

Questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about:

  • It is possible to take my child or spouse/partner along with me when I study abroad?
  • If I’m not able to be away for very long due to family and/or work obligations, what are my options for an international learning experience?
  • Can I request to live with people of my age who share my interests?

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Depending on the program, you may be permitted to have your child and/or spouse accompany you while you study abroad. However, there are many challenges that you should consider, such as accounting for unanticipated additional costs, housing restrictions, medical insurance for dependents, and/or special visa requirements.
  • Consider a shorter program offered during summer or a mini-term. These programs are as short as one week, yet provide you with an opportunity to receive credit toward your degree completion requirements.
  • If you are concerned about taking a leave of absence from work, consider looking into the few programs or countries that would allow you to work part time while you are studying abroad

As an international student attending college in Tennessee, you may already think of yourself as studying abroad in a foreign country. You’re experiencing a new culture and interacting with people from all walks of life. However, attending a US university doesn’t mean you can’t study abroad in another country, too.

Questions you may want to consider, research, and ask about:

  • Does my current visa allow me to leave the United States and return to Knoxville to continue my education? Are there any restrictions?
  • Do I already have a visa for every country I will travel through?
  • How can I stay up to date on immigration laws for my host country?

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Participating in a “double-abroad” experience could enrich your undergraduate career, but you must make sure you plan ahead and understand all entry requirements to the study abroad destination as part of the planning process for study abroad
  • Consult with the Center for International Education to ensure that you are in compliance with immigration regulations and are not at risk of losing important immigration benefits, such as Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  • Depending on the country where your study abroad program is located, you may need to obtain a visa for the host country.

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