Traveling While Black New York Times article by Farai Chideya
Go Girl!: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure by Elaine Lee (Editor) ($16.40 on Amazon)
Depending on your race and/or ethnicity, you may be concerned about facing potential racial bias and prejudice without the comfort of your usual support system. On the other hand, you may be looking forward to being part of the majority population for the first time in your life. Or, you may be planning a self-discovery sojourn to the country or region of your family’s heritage. Whatever reasons you have for studying abroad, you will find that adjusting abroad can be a positive growth experience. It may not always be fun, but it can present a unique learning opportunity that will serve you well in the future.
Issues of race vary depending on the student and the host country. Some students may be racial minorities at home but study in countries where their race is the majority. Others may be a racial minority for the first time. In many cases, students may find that race is less an issue than their nationalities when abroad. Whatever the situation, it is important for students studying abroad to identify and reflect on their own experiences with racial issues and their own preconceived notions and expectations. Other cultures have very different ways of dealing with these issues, and students may encounter individuals who range from overly curious to completely disinterested in their racial backgrounds. Issues of race and study abroad are wonderful opportunities to examine the ways another culture navigates race and racial issues that may differ from those of your home country. As always, the more aware and prepared you are about these issues in your host culture before departure, the less likely you are to jump to negative conclusions in confusing situations. Be sure to do research on your host country, as well as consult with your peers who have studied abroad.
Below are some tips to help you consider studying abroad, prepare for your journey, deal with situations abroad, and incorporate your experience into your everyday life after you return.
Before you even begin investigating study abroad options, it’s best to talk it over with your parents or family.
- What are some reasons to share with your family on the value of studying abroad?
- Studying abroad will add that professional “extra” to your resume that may open doors to competitive graduate schools and better and more challenging positions;
- With the internationalization of the entire globe, it is important to keep pace with the knowledge, language skills, and problem solving skills of the current and future workforce;
- The world market place is shrinking rapidly and many companies require second languages. Foreign languages are not only valuable in the workforce, they are valuable in the real world.
- You can earn academic credit while experiencing that defining moment in your education that may change your life: studying abroad does not have to delay graduation!
- While you are a student, you have the time and can tap into scholarships and financial aid to assist in providing possibly the best experience of your college career;
- Your perspectives will be global, your attitude will be international, and you will become less ethnocentric and become more culturally sensitive and accepting;
- You will develop confidence, a strengthened sense of personal identity, flexibility, creativity, and more.
University of Michigan International Center – a resource for women abroad
Bledsoe, Lucy Jane, ed. Gay Travels: A Literary Companion and Lesbian Travels: A Literary Companion (San Francisco: Whereabouts Press, 1998)
Bond, Marybeth, Traveler’s Tales: A Woman’s World. 1995.
Henry de Tessan, Christina, ed. Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad (Seal Press, 2002)
Lee, Elaine, Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure. 1997. 8th Mountain Press.
Morris, Mary and Larry O’Connor. Maiden Voyages; Writings of Women Travelers (NY: Vintage Books, 1993)
Morris, Mary, Nothing to Declare. 1991. Penguin Books.
Morris, Mary, Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin. 1991.
Piet-Pelon, N.J. & B. Hornby Women’s Guide to Overseas Living. 1992. Intercultural Press.
Swan, Sheila and Laufer, Peter. Safety and Security for Women Who Travel (San Francisco: Traveler’s Tales Inc., 1998)
Van Gelder, Lindsay and Pamela Robin Brandt. Are You Two… Together? A Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide to Europe (NY: Random House, 1991)
Zepatos, Thalia. A Journey of One’s Own: Uncommon Advice for the Independent Woman Traveler (The Eighth Mountain Press, 2003)
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students should expect to face many of the challenges typical of their heterosexual peers. In fact, some study abroad advisers have noted that GLBT students are better-equipped to deal with common cultural barriers abroad because they may already be familiar with the role of “minority” or “outsider” in adolescence. Levels of tolerance, acceptance, and support for GLBT individuals vary greatly from culture to culture. GLBT students will find their experiences more successful if they prepare themselves by becoming educated on the legal and cultural issues facing GLBT people in their host culture.
The Damron Mens Travel Guide 2006 (Damron Men’s Travel Guide) Over 12,000 listings of gay-friendly businesses in the US, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, South America, and most European capitals.
Damron Women’s Traveller 2006 Over 9,000 listings cover North America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and major capitals of Europe, noting women-run businesses, vegetarian menus, wheelchair access, multiracial clientele, and much more.
Gay Travel A to Z: The World of Gay and Lesbian Travel Options at your Fingertips 2001 The most complete gay and lesbian travel options available anywhere are detailed in this comprehensive guide produced by a gay publisher who has exclusively specialized in gay and lesbian travel since 1980.
Frommer’s Gay and Lesbian Europe, Third Edition (2003) Offers inside tips on the gay and lesbian scene in every locale, plus practical information on hotels, dining, and attractions-a must for the 74 percent of U.S. gays and lesbians who took an international trip in 2001
Recommended Reading :
Are You Two…Together? A Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide to Europe. 1991. Lindsay Van Gelder and Pamela Brandt, Random House.
Out in the World: Gay and Lesbian Life from Buenos Aires to Bangkok. 1992. Neil Miller.
Sexual Orientation and Identity: Heterosexual, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Journeys. 1995. Heather Pierce and Carol Wishik.
The Third Pink Book: A Global View of Lesbian and Gay Liberation and Oppression. 1993. Art Hendricks.
The World Out There: Becoming Part of the Gay and Lesbian Community. 1996. Michael Ford.
Some thoughts GLBT Students should consider when making the decision to study abroad:
From Michigan State University
Get to know your destination.
Explore GLBT travel guides and internet resources. Talk with other GLBT and allied people about their experiences in certain countries or regions to gather as much information as possible upon which to make your choices and decisions. Once in your host country, find out what local newspapers, e-magazines or online resources may be available. Some questions to ask include:
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others?
- How important is it to me to find other sexual minority students and friends while abroad? How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, local residents, or community organizations and gathering places?
- What resources are available in my host country for sexual minority people?
- Are there any GLBT-friendly establishments nearby? How can I find them?
- What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? Is the program able to make special accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, or certain roommates?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services due to my transgender status? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with my medication or supplies?
Understand the context, customs, and attitudes in your host country.
Similar expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings in different places. In somelocations when you are outside distinct gay ‘neighborhoods’ or specificvacation or resort facilities, open expressions of your sexualorientation might be frowned upon.
In some other areas of the world,expressions of friendship (such as eye contact, a smile, touching, and physical proximity) may be quite different than those expressedamong your U.S. peers and cause you to experience confusion oruncertainty about who may or may not be GLBT. For example, in several Middle Eastern countries hand-holding among males is a custom of special friendship and respect and does not necessarily imply homosexuality. Some questions to ask include:
- What are the cultural and local attitudes towards Americans, tourists, and sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country?
- What are police attitudes towards local residents, tourists, GLBT visitors?
- What is considered typical male and female social behavior and customary gender relations and social patterns in the host country?
- What may make the coming out process different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
- What are the norms and behavioral expectations within the GLBT communities in my host country?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country? How are GLBT people socially defined? What roles do transgender people play in the host culture?
Learn the laws of your host country regarding GLBT issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of GLBT identity and community.
You are required to follow the law in your host country.Once outside the United States you are no longer protected by U.S.laws. If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and you arecaught engaging in them (or presumed to have engaged in them), youcould be arrested and imprisoned in that country. In some countries,the penalties are very severe and can even include deportation,corporal punishments, and execution.
Be familiar with local laws and customs so you can make informed andsafe choices about destinations and programs which will be the bestfit for you and your needs. Some questions to ask include:
- Are there “public decency” laws? Or “public indecency” laws?
- What is the age of consent? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
- Does the law require having “proper documentation” at all times?
- What is the police attitude towards the local GLBT community?
- Will laws and attitudes be the same for different social classes or geographic areas?
Think about changes that may occur when you come home.
A journey abroad is a time of personal growth and discovery. Many transformations in personal development and self-awareness can occur, prompted by the fact that the restrictions of the home culture have been removed. Returning home is therefore a time of transition that can be difficult at times.
- If you choose to come out while abroad, how will this affect your return to friends and family?
- Will you be able to re-integrate these relationships upon your return or will you need to find a different supportive community?
- Be aware before you come back home of the ways in which you may have changed both independent of and as a result of your coming out.
- Consider the implications of coming out when back home. Often family and friends may want to dismiss your sexual orientation as temporary due to the experience abroad, rather than acknowledge a lifelong identity.
Students with disabilities face unique challenges and growth opportunities in the study abroad experience. However, they may find themselves better equipped to deal with these challenges due to past experiences being part of an underserved group. With proper planning and communication, this experience can be tremendously rewarding for the student and host community. Each culture differs in the way people perceive and accommodate levels of ability. For these reasons, it is important to do the following:
- Disclose any disability to the study abroad program as early as possible in order to ensure that the program is right for you and that necessary arrangements can be made.
- Prepare yourself with the language skills to talk about your disability with those on your program and in your host country.
- Anticipate differences in the way your host community may provide support. Your host culture may have different perceptions or may handle disability differently. Remember too, that you may be studying with students from all over the world who will bring their culturally specific expectations with them, which may differ from yours, and/or your host culture.
- Prepare yourself by reading about your host culture and by talking to alumni of your program. This is the best way to ensure that you understand the kinds of support and accommodation that will be provided.
For more information about traveling and studying abroad with a disability, please visit the following sites:
Spirituality and religion play an important role in many of our students’ lives, and in the lives of the host community members. One of the most exciting and interesting things about experiencing another culture is developing a multi-dimensional understanding of religious traditions and beliefs that differ from our own. To have a successful experience, an open mind regarding religious pluralism and diversity is important for students studying abroad. It is important to explore the religious traditions and beliefs of your host culture, even if the religion in similar to your own. Note as well, that many cultures have more than one religious belief represented.
It is important that you research and gather information on how your religion will be welcomed in your host country. Gathering information about your host country will help make your experience a positive one.
U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Information
If you have special eating habits, are committed to a particular way of eating (vegetarian, vegan, kosher, macrobiotic, etc.), or have health issues or food allergies that result in a special diet, you will need to research your study abroad destination carefully before assuming that the food you need will be available. Also keep in mind that in many areas of the world certain special diets, such as vegetarian, are not common and in some cases, not eating food that has been prepared for you, even if for dietary reasons, is considered rude.
If, for cultural, religious or personal reasons you do not eat certain types of food you should contact your study abroad program administrator to see whether or not your dietary needs can be accommodated. Rather than packing granola, peanut butter, and tuna instead of clothes so you can eat “properly” while abroad—or spending your precious time complaining about the food—learn what is and isn’t available that so you can experience the food of the culture you’re living in while at the same time having your dietary needs met. Being flexible, whenever possible, about what you eat will make your study abroad experience easier and more enriching.
International Vegetarian Union
Although discrimination is illegal in many countries, it may still occur. If you believe that you are being discriminated against, please discuss it with the resident director, program leader, or on-site staff.
Discrimination is built on negative stereotypes and prejudices that are influenced by a variety of factors, including the media. Although these attitudes may be frustrating at times, remember that one of the main reasons for your participation in study abroad is to learn about other cultures. This includes both the positive and negative aspects. What you perceive as a discriminatory act or remark may not necessarily be viewed as such in the context of the host culture, but rather as a cultural difference.