Identity Resource Guide

When you study off-campus, you bring your whole self with you. Take some time to consider all aspects of your identity– who are “you”? How is your identity perceived in the United States? How might it be perceived in your host country? How could it intersect with your host culture and the identities of those with whom you interact?

Here are some questions to consider as you research off-campus study programs and/or as you prepare to depart. Please keep in mind that these questions are not meant to deter you from specific programs based on your identity, but rather to help learn about different programs and cultures, set expectations, and think about strategies to maintain your wellbeing while off-campus. There are helpful resources linked beneath each question to help guide your research, but always feel free to reach out to a member of the CIIS staff with specific questions.

Want to talk to a student who has recently returned from off-campus study? CIIS can help!

Race and Ethnicity     Sexuality     Gender     Religion     Physical Health and Ability     Mental Health and Wellbeing     First-Generation



Race and Ethnicity

Questions to Consider

  • How is race/ethnicity constructed in this country? How might others define/categorize/label my race or ethnicity?
  • Is my racial or ethnic identity considered part of the “minority” or the “majority” within this country? Does this differ from how I am perceived in the US? 
  • What is the history of race/ethnicity in this country? What is the history of racism/colorism within this country?
  • Are there anti-discrimination laws in place? Are there legal protections for racial and ethnic minorities?
  • How racially and ethnically diverse is this country? 
  • Are there stereotypes associated with my race or ethnicity in this country?
  • Will I be able to find skin- or haircare products for my skin/hair?

Resources to Help

Diversity Abroad: Minority & Students of Color Abroad

Diversity Abroad: Tips for Heritage Seekers Traveling Abroad

AllAbroad: Resources for Asian/Asian-American Students

AllAbroad: Resources for Hispanic/Latinx Students

University of Wisconsin-Madison: White-Identifying Students Abroad



Questions to Consider

  • Are there laws that govern/limit LGBTQIA+ communities in your host country or countries to which I may travel? Are consensual same-sex acts criminalized in this country?
  • Does this country have anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQIA+ students?
  • Will I choose to come out to my host family/peers/program staff during my semester?
  • What is the history of LGBTQIA+ acceptance in this country?
  • Does my host family have experience housing a LGBTQIA+ student?
  • Are there differences in levels of acceptance/understanding in different regions of this country (ex. urban vs. rural areas)?
  • Are there LGBTQIA+ communities/resources in this country with whom I could connect?

Resources to Help

Equaldex: World Maps for LGBTQIA+ Rights and Social Norms Around the World

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA)

Sexual Orientation Laws Around the World (ILGA)

The Department of State: Guidance for LGBTQIA+ Travelers 7 Tips for Coming Out to Your Host Family Abroad



Questions to Consider

  • How are gender roles constructed in this country? How rigid/fluid are norms around gender?
  • Are there laws that govern/impact gender identity and/or specifically trans* individuals in this country?
  • Does my gender identification match my current passport? Does my preferred name match the name on my identification card? 
  • Are there medications I will require during my time abroad (ex. hormones, birth control, etc.)? Will they be available to me? Would I be able to bring enough with me for the entirety of the semester?
  • Am I comfortable sharing my gender identity with peers, teachers, my host family?
  • What is the history of gender roles and/or sexism in this country?
  • Is catcalling/street harassment common in this country? How will I respond to catcalling or unwanted attention?
  • What is the gender representation in government and positions of power within this country?

Resources to Help

Equaldex: World Maps for LGBTQIA+ Rights and Social Norms Around the World

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA)

Diversity Abroad: Resources for Women Going Abroad

The Department of State: Women Abroad



Questions to Consider

  • What role does religion play in this country?
  • How religiously diverse is this country?
  • Would my religious affiliation (or lack thereof) be seen as part of the “majority” or “minority” in this country? Does this differ from the United States?
  • Do religious beliefs inform/impact laws in this country? Do religious beliefs inform/impact norms of behavior or etiquette?
  • Are there religious holidays that where stores/schools close or other services are unavailable? How are different religious holidays celebrated throughout this country?
  • Do religious beliefs impact dietary norms in this country? Will my religious dietary needs be met/understood in this country? (Ex. kosher or halal food preparations, fasting, abstinence from alcohol or specific meats, etc.)
  • Is there history of religious persecution or censorship in this country?

Resources to Help

The Department of State: Report on International Religious Freedom

Diversity Abroad: Religious Diversity Abroad

The Department of State: Faith-Based Travelers

The Pluralism Project


Physical Health and Ability

Questions to Consider

  • Do I want to disclose my disability to peers, on-site staff, my host family?
  • Are there physical or academic accommodations I receive on-campus? How can I coordinate to continue these accommodations in my host country? Can these accommodations be reasonably met in this country/this program?
  • Are there legal protections for individuals with disabilities in this country?
  • What is the physical infrastructure of my host community, homestay, academic building(s), campus, public transportation, etc.?
  • Are my medications legal within this country? Can I bring my medications with me into this country? Can I bring enough of my medication to last the entire semester?
  • Do I need consistent access to specific amenities during my off-campus study semester, and are these accessible at my program (ex. consistent access to refrigeration)?
  • Are my food allergies prevalent in that culture’s food? Can I effectively communicate my food allergies to my host family, restaurant staff, or peers?
  • Can my specific dietary needs be met in this country? Will people be familiar with/understand my dietary needs or preferences (ex. vegetarianism, veganism, pescatarianism, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.)?

Resources to Help

St. Lawrence University: Student Accessibility Services

Diversity Abroad: Students with Disabilities Abroad

The Department of State: Travelers with Disabilities

Mobility International USA

IES Abroad: 9 Tips for Studying Abroad with Food Allergies


Mental Health and Wellbeing

Note: Seeing a counselor or experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges does not exclude you from participating in off-campus study. These questions are intended to help you reflect on what strategies can support and maintain your mental health and wellbeing while off-campus. In addition, it is strongly recommended that you reach out to your program staff on-site prior to departure to talk through questions you might have or what sources of mental health support are available on-site.

Questions to Ask

  • What do I do on St. Lawrence’s campus to maintain my mental health and wellbeing? How can I continue these healthy habits (or adapt them to) my host country?
  • Do I see a counselor regularly now? Have I talked to my counselor about my off-campus study plans (or interest)? Can that counselor continue to support me internationally? What counseling resources are available on-site?
  • Does my insurance cover counseling costs internationally?
  • What stressors or challenges do I anticipate? What are some strategies I can bring with me to recognize, process, and respond to stress?
  • Who can I reach out to if I am struggling with my mental health? Who or what should I avoid if I am struggling with my mental health?
  • How does my host culture view/discuss mental health? Are there specific words in my host language used to discuss mental health and wellbeing?

Resources to Help

If you are ever experiencing thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or otherwise wish to speak with a counselor, you can contact the SLU 24/7 Crisis and Counseling Helpline: +1 315 229 1914.

St. Lawrence University Health and Counseling Center

St. Lawrence University Crisis Services

Mindfulness and Breathing Guide

GoAbroad - Studying Abroad with Anxiety: A Testimonial

GoOverseas – How to Deal with Depression While Abroad

Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Resource Guide

First-Generation Students:

Questions to Ask:

  • How can I explain to my parents/guardians the importance of studying off-campus? What is the value of this experience that differentiates it from vacations or non-academic travel
  • What skills have I developed as a first-generation student, and how can they help me navigate my experience off-campus?
  • Who can I ask for help to make sure I am on track to meeting all my academic requirements before going off-campus?
  • What resources and support are available to plan my off-campus study?
  • How can I connect with other students who've recently returned from studying off-campus?

Resources to Help


General Helpful Resources: 

Diversity Abroad: Destination Resource Guides

The Department of State: Country-Specific Information Guides


With thanks to Isabelle Murray '22, Maggie Farrell '22, and Melissa Perez Sancho '23, CIIS Peer Advisors, for their support in creating this resource.