Diversity and Identity Abroad Privilege and Allyship

As a student participating in a global opportunity, you will experience innumerable ways in which life abroad is different than your own at home. This abundance of diversity, in ways that may both surprise or please you, is the reality of being abroad. While you may feel very comfortable in your host country, others may feel completely out-of-place upon arrival. However you feel, it is important to acknowledge the privilege -- in all forms -- that you carry both at home and also as a visitor in your host country.  

Privilege, in the context of diversity and inclusion, is a set of unearned benefits enjoyed by people who belong to particular social groups. Being able to acknowledge the privileges you may have can correspond with understanding your identity. This also allows every individual, regardless of background, to be an ally. 

An ally is an individual who uses their privilege to advocate on behalf of those who do not have the same privilege. Becoming an ally to those who identify with marginalized communities can have many entry points. When you find yourself in a situation in which you don’t quite understand the other person, consider using a simple phrase - “Tell me more”. This simple phrase opens the door to further conversation and learning. This intentional act of listening, including leaning into discomfort and educating yourself, is key to becoming an ally to those who are different than you. 

Allyship is a journey that takes time, effort, and an open mind. By educating yourself through readings, listening to the stories of all kinds of people, and self-reflection, you will challenge your assumptions, dismantle biased worldviews and norms, and open your eyes to new possibilities for connection, solidarity, and common ground. 

Questions to Consider: 

  • Who am I? What identities do I hold? Have any of these changed over the course of my lifetime? 
  • Which of my identities are most salient for me in my daily life? 
  • What privileges have allowed me to be where I currently am in the world? Some examples may be my educational background, passport, or native language. 
  • How might local students and community members view me? Are there ways in which my interactions in a new country might advance my privilege? How do I feel about this? 
  • How might other Penn students on the same abroad program be experiencing life differently? 
  • What issues or problems might other students face that I haven’t thought about or noticed because of my privilege? 
  • How would I react if someone on my program or in my host country was sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory? 
  • How can I be inclusive and supportive of others who do not share the same privileges as you? 

Resources 

(How To) Be An Ally at Home and Abroad 

Navigating Identities while Studying Abroad 

How to be a Genuine Ally 

True Allyship: A Toolkit for Allies of the LGBTQIA+ Community 

Want to be an Ally? Here's What You Should Ask Yourself