Identities Abroad

The CHS International Programs Office believes in promoting diversity and fostering inclusivity at home and when studying abroad. We recognize that different aspects of your identity may impact your study abroad experience and we encourage students to learn about their host countries and prepare before traveling. Below are some considerations and resources that may be helpful to you as you contemplate what type of study abroad program is best for you. If you have questions, concerns, or need assistance finding resources, feel free to reach out to the CHS International Programs Office.


Race and Ethnicity

Traveling to another county is a unique opportunity to learn about and to interact with different cultures and perspectives. Sometimes these cultures have different racial and ethnic relations than what you may be used to. For the first time in your life, you may be part of an ethnic minority or majority, or you may simply be considered an American regardless of your race and ethnicity. Before studying abroad, we recommend looking into a country’s attitude towards race and ethnicity.


  • Connect with the  CHS Multicultural Programs Office.
  • To get an overview of a country’s diversity and inclusion climate, check out Diversity Abroad’s Destination Guides. On this website you can also find travel tips and read about student experiences in their articles section.
  • helps students from diverse backgrounds to find study abroad resources and to obtain advice from study abroad mentors.
  • To find first-hand experiences, try searching for travel blogs and social media accounts written by people of color who have traveled to the destinations you are interested in. 

Advice from former students:

“Do some research beforehand on the demographics of the area you are going to and the school you are going to if possible; consider how safe that does or does not make you feel. Trust your gut. And be prepared to also understand how being American (if applicable) intersects with your identities.” – Lucy Burzynski

“If you are worried about being Black in an unfamiliar situation, then first look up the place and safety level, look at reviews on social media, use every platform to your advantage to find out more information… I think this can be a great experience if you let it be! For me, the positives outweighed the negatives because I created a positive environment for myself by surrounding myself with great and diverse friends. So give it a try and learn from it.” – Jemie Ilunga

Kinesiology and Health Major, Lucy Burzynski, with a Koala while abroad.
Lucy Burzynski (Kinesiology and Health), Deakin University participant

Navigation Image: Jemie Ilunga (Apparel, Merchandising, and Design), Fu Jen Catholic University participant.

Back to top

LGBTQIA+ Students

It is important to be aware of a culture’s attitude towards gender and sexual expression when traveling. In order to have a safe and rewarding experience, it is important to research these attitudes and beliefs as well as local laws before traveling.  Before you go to a country you should know:

  • If there are laws supporting or restricting gender and sexual expression
  • If there are any LGBTQIA+ organizations or support systems available
  • The attitudes and beliefs of locals surrounding dating and relationships


Advice from former students:

“Be cautious to stay safe while also being yourself!” -anonymous semester-long study abroad participant

Navigation Image: Abu Dhabi, Program: Exploring Hospitality and Event Management in the Arabic World

Back to top

International Students

Want to study abroad while you’re studying abroad? Every year, ISU international students participate in our international education experiences. When planning to study abroad, you should be aware of your intended destination’s entry requirements. You will also likely need to work with ISSO to get the appropriate documentation for travel.


Navigation Image: Italy, Program: School of Education in Rome

Back to top


Like many aspects of studying abroad, spirituality and religious expression in another country may look similar to the U.S. or it may be very different. Before traveling, it is important to research attitudes and beliefs towards religion. Before you go to a country you should know:

  • What the majority and minority religions are
  • If there are any laws about practicing or promoting religion
  • How to respectfully visit religious landmarks
  • If it is safe to wear religious symbols or clothing

If following your religious practices is very important to you, you may want to plan how you can participate while abroad. Decide what aspects of your religion you can or cannot be flexible on and if it will be feasible to maintain them while in a foreign country. If you are going on a faculty-led program, discuss any religious practices you need to follow with your faculty program director and staff in the CHS International Programs Office.


  • Diversity Abroad offers tips, student profiles, and information about diversity and inclusion overseas. See especially their page on religious diversity abroad.
  • Search for countries in the U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report, which will give you demographic breakdown as well as recent events surrounding religion in each country.
  • On the CIA World Factbook website, look for your host country’s page and research the “People and Society” section, where you can find the religious breakdown of the country.
  • If you need to abstain from certain foods because of your religion, visit the Dietary Restrictions resource page.
  • To find first-hand experiences, try searching travel blogs and social media accounts written by people who share your religion.

Advice from former students:

Apparel, Merchandising, and Design Major, Jemie Ilunga, on a hike.
Jemie Ilunga (Apparel, Merchandising, and Design), Fu Jen Catholic University participant

“[My religion] wasn’t too much of a worry because I could follow my home church online. If attending a physical church is essential, then I advise you to search and look for a few beforehand.” – Jemie Ilunga

Navigation Image: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Program: Exploring Hospitality and Event Management in the Arabic World

Back to top


An important part of study abroad preparation is researching the demands of travel, and this preparation is even more essential for students with a disability. The degree of access, disability services offered, and local perceptions of disability and mental health may vary by country. Before you travel, you should know:

  • What the physical demands of the experience will be
  • What, if any, laws the country has about accessibility
  • If there are any accessibility support services
  • What local perceptions are of disability and mental health
  • If academic accommodations will be necessary or possible
  • If all medication you are taking is legal abroad


Advice from former students:

“I would say make sure you confirm with the professor who is leading the program numerous times about your disability/dietary restrictions [so] that they will take these into account. Ask what they will specifically do to meet these needs.” – anonymous short-term faculty-led participant

Navigation Image: New Zealand, Program: Massey University

Back to top

Dietary Restrictions

Often when people think about experiencing a new culture, they think of trying new food, but this can make traveling a daunting task for those with medical, religious, or lifestyle-related dietary restrictions. As a first step, we recommend talking to the CHS International Programs Office to learn about what food activities might be included in a program. Below are some additional questions to think about. 

  • How common is your dietary restriction in your host country?
  • How will you express your needs to vendors, restaurant staff, etc.?
  • Will you have the resources to cook your own food if eating out is not an option?
  • Will the airline you are flying on be able to provide you appropriate food?
  • Will you be able to bring specialty items to supplement your nutritional health?


  • If you are traveling in a non-English speaking country, try learning the words to describe your restriction in the local language. Depending on the country, you may be able to purchase a card online that explains your dietary restriction in the country’s native language.
  • Talk with your doctor about studying abroad. They may be able to consult you on the viability of traveling or provide needed dietary supplements.

ISU Resources

Medical Dietary Restrictions

Check out resources for:

Religious Dietary Restrictions

  • Visit for a guide to Halal restaurants and markets around the world.
  • Check out for a kosher travel guide organized by country.
  • If you do not eat animal products for religious reasons, check out the vegetarian & vegan resources below.

Vegetarian & Vegan Dietary Restrictions:

Advice from former students:

“Ensure that before you go, you make faculty aware of any restrictions or allergies you have. Especially if things are being prepared for you in advance.” -anonymous short-term faculty-led participant

Navigation Image: France, Program: Nutritious Food in France

Back to top

First-Generation College Students

As a first-generation college student, you may be the first person in your family to ever have the opportunity to study abroad. While some students enjoy forging their own path, others may find the process to be overwhelming and cost-prohibitive. Similarly, first-generation students can experience a range of support from their family and friends. If your support system does not understand the reasons and benefits behind international travel, it can make the experience more challenging.

If you are a first-generation student who does not know where to start or who is worried about program costs, we recommend meeting with the CHS International Programs Office. We are here to help you understand the study abroad process. We will also work with you to find programs that are affordable, to understand the costs associated with study abroad, and to identify scholarship and financial aid resources.

If your support system has concerns about you traveling, we recommend you explore the Study Abroad Center’s Study Abroad Misconceptions and FAQ pages.

Advice from former students:

“[I had] lots of questions and concerns from my family. I was the first child to go to college, so study abroad was very new and scary for my parents. [My advice is] don’t be afraid! It may be scary at first, but you may never get a chance to study abroad or be abroad again. Take the chance once you get it.” -anonymous semester-long participant

“Go out and do it – it is good to experience other cultures outside of Iowa.” – Lexi Stumpf (London College of Fashion participant)

Navigation Image: Ecuador, International Student Teaching

Back to top