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Study Abroad Pre-Departure Guide
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Health Issues Abroad
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Women's Issues Abroad
Minorities Abroad
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Managing Your Money
Cultural Adjustment
Culture Shock
Intercultural Communication
Alcohol Use Abroad
What it Means to be 'American'
Handling Anti-American Criticism
Returning Home from Study Abroad
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Women's Issues Abroad

â??Despite our personal beliefs about what women should have the right to do around the world, we need to reach a balance of maintaining our identity and respecting the culture we are visiting. Women face unique challenges as we travel abroad. While we are excited to meet new people, we also have to think about our personal safety. Understanding cultural differences in the areas of sex roles, verbal and non-verbal communication and the reputation of foreign women can empower us as we go abroad.â??

- from American Women Abroad by Holly Wilkinson-Ray

Challenges for Women Abroad

Many American women traveling abroad are adventuresome, independent and eager to meet people. Make the most of your time overseas and become involved in a variety of activities. In the United States, women are used to being active: talking with people they don't know, making friends quickly, and going out at night. Yet, in some parts of the world the role of women is to stay at home. Friends are made through family ties, not at night in a bar. And there are often strong differences between how women are expected to act in public and in private. Dress, behavior, activity, eye contact, and topics of conversation are shaped by spoken and unspoken cultural norms.

Tips for Women Travelers

Here are a few tips for improving your cultural sensitivity as a woman traveling abroad:

Research the country
Find out what the dress code is for women, which locations and situations are best to avoid as a woman, what message non-verbal communication such as eye-contact sends, etc. Begin gathering this information by talking to women who are either from that part of the world or have traveled there.

Get to know the women of the country
Begin by reading books by and about women from the country. Take advantage of your new home, learn from other women that you are living with, ask questions, and take the time to get to know how they interact with their native culture.

Women can learn a lot about roles, attitudes and customs by watching. How do women carry themselves in public? What is the role of women in the host culture? What is the reputation of foreign women?

Honor the customs
Women travel to other countries to learn, so women need to make the effort it takes to show them respect.

Be aware of different cultures
If you have lived in Germany for a year and feel comfortable with male/female relationships, do not assume your expectations hold true in other countries. As you cross borders, take on the challenge of learning about each culture you encounter.

Learn the language
Whether you are in a country for a few days or a year, you will make a stronger connection with people by trying to talk to people in their language.

Avoid generalizations
You might have a bad experience interacting with one Briton; that does not mean that all British men and the whole country are unlikable. Focus on what you can learn about yourself and your own culture from each experience.

Listen to and trust your instincts
While women need to make efforts to adapt to a new culture, they also need to pay attention to what feels comfortable. When women are in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to follow their instincts and leave.

Find an outlet
Express yourself and the difficulties you experience to someone who can understand or in a journal.

Use common sense
Be constantly aware of your environment, take the usual precautions with strangers, and never walk alone after dark. Learn about the safest way to return to your home. While we take our nationality and gender with us abroad, one of the best tools women can also take along is cultural sensitivity. With this type of knowledge backing us up, women have a big world out there to explore.