Your Identity and Off-Campus Study
Wherever you travel, your unique identity will travel with you. While you may have been inspired by the idea of learning more about another place or culture, students are often surprised by how much they learn about themselves. Off-campus study provides you with a great opportunity to better understand who you are and how your background has shaped you. If you approach your OCS experience with openness, you can learn more about your own cultural context and that of others, building important skills in intercultural competence.
The culture of your host community will also play a large role in how people view themselves and you as their guest. Culture affects our views of race, gender, sexuality, religion, education, nationality, and values in ways that you may not be used to giving a second thought. For example, US citizens living in the US may rarely consider their "Americanness" much of the time, but may be perceived primarily as American or simply "international" while abroad. However, differences in intersectional identities will filter into these perceptions. You should prepare yourself for how you may feel when you encounter these differences. Consider, too, what backgrounds the other participants on your program may have, as they may make up a significant portion of your interactions. Recognize that your experiences in your host country may be different from others on your program, and seek to support each other where you can.
We know that you may have specific questions about how certain aspects of your identity will impact your experience. The Center for Global Programs is committed to supporting you, and we want to work with you to make sure your experience is a time for you to grow. We have gathered resources to assist you as you research and prepare for your Off-Campus Study semester. Your program is likely to have additional resources specific to your host country, too, and we encourage you to seek those out, or let us know any additional information that you need. Being informed about key aspects of identity and how these are viewed in your host community, shaped by their history and culture, can provide you valuable context before you arrive, but know that you own individual experience will be all your own.
How to be Respectful of Others in your USAC (Program) group article
Intercultural Competency Media List, from IES
Identity Reflection Activity for Travelers, from Mobility International USA
Online Community for Plus-Size Travelers, Chubby Diaries
Race and Ethnicity
Disability and Accessibility
First Generation Students
Athletes and OCS
Religion and Spirituality