Diversity and Identity Abroad Gender

Every culture maintains different views about the roles of and attitudes towards gender. Depending on the culture, people’s general attitudes, and overarching societal beliefs, your experience abroad may be significantly different than at home, which could impact your behavior, routines, dress, safety precautions, and roles. 

Researching as much as possible about gender identity and expression in your host country prior to departure is strongly encouraged. Individuals who share your gender identity and have been abroad in your intended host country may be valuable resources as you prepare to go abroad. You may discover that your gender results in being treated differently or that you are expected to behave differently than at home. It’s important to educate yourself on the social norms and local laws regarding socializing and dating for men and women, as well as regarding same-sex relationships (see LGBTQ+ page), so you can set the proper expectations for yourself while abroad. 

While abroad, you may experience some gender-specific challenges. Different cultures have unique beliefs surrounding femininity, masculinity, and gender identity. In some locations and cultures, individuals’ actions and personal expression can send different cultural signals that may not be understood in the same way as they are at home, and if performed, may have unintended consequences. These consequences can range from feeling uncomfortable or awkward in an unfamiliar situation to being put in danger of physical or emotional harm. To keep yourself safe and healthy, make sure you find trusted support through community, both at home and abroad, to help you face these unfamiliar situations.  

Questions to Consider

  • What mainstream gender roles, stereotypes, and power dynamics exist in my host country, and how do they compare to my home country? 
  • Which issues, including but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and relationship dynamics, may present themselves during study abroad? 
  • What norms about relationships, friendships, and dating differ between my home country and host country?  
  • What resources at Penn, at my host institution, and within my host culture can help me navigate gender abroad?  

Resources

Information for Women Travelers from the U.S. State Department 

Penn Women’s Center 

Penn Violence Prevention 

Transitions Abroad: Travel for Women 

Sexual Harassment and Prevention in College Students Studying Abroad 

JourneyWoman - Travel Guide for Women 

Diversity Abroad’s Women Going Abroad Page

Brown University - Men and Women Abroad

University of Chicago - Gender Abroad