Diversity and Identity Abroad Religion & Spirituality

Religion and spirituality, whether practiced in an organized manner or individually, can play an important role in your host country and can be a telling glimpse into the country’s culture as a whole. You may find that religion is tightly woven into the fabric of your host country, or perhaps you may find that it is not nearly as salient as you believed it to be. Whether or not you practice a religion or identify with a faith background, it is helpful to research the customs of the religions practiced in your host country. You may encounter cultural nuances different to the religion or spiritual practice you are accustomed to practicing at home, or find that local folk traditions or beliefs influence religious and spiritual practices abroad. 

If you hold certain faith beliefs at home, consider researching how your religious or spiritual practices abroad may be similar or different. Ask any on-the-ground contacts you have about how and where you can practice your faith safely, as well as how you can abide by any religious practices. Seeking advice from those in your faith community can also prove to be helpful in preparing to go abroad. You may find that adhering to a certain religion or belief system may be more or less accepted in your host country. You may experience a sense of relief or freedom in being abroad. Alternatively, you may find yourself misunderstood and frustrated in not being able to practice as freely as you are accustomed to. 

Taking the initiative to understand the role of religion and spirituality in your host country can be a valuable vehicle to learning more about your own religion. 

Questions to Consider

  • Do I plan on practicing my faith while abroad? 
  • Do my religious beliefs and practices require any specific physical or dietary accommodations? 
  • What are some ways that I can uphold my religious or spiritual practices in my host country? 
  • Does my host country have a large religious population? Has religion played a part in local laws and practices? 

Resources

Penn’s Office of the Chaplain & The Spiritual and Religious Life Center 

Resources from Diversity Abroad 

The Pluralism Project from Harvard University 

KAHAL - “Your Jewish Home Abroad”  

US State Department - International Religious Freedom Report 

Brown University’s Religion & Spirituality Abroad Resources