Women Going Abroad

In this section, we refer primarily, but not exclusively, to cisgender-identified women, as transgender-identified individuals, gender nonbinary, or gender-queer individuals may have additional considerations—see the LGBTQ+ Students section for additional resources.

Being a woman or female-identifying student abroad can be an eye-opening experience, because every culture has a different attitude towards women. Before and during your trip, find out about your host country’s cultural values and behaviors regarding women. Across many countries, traditional gender roles often inform how women are expected to act, dress, and even speak to others. What might be perceived as common behavior for women in the U.S. may be misinterpreted in other countries. Also, remember that these are generalizations, and you will find individuals with wide-ranging views on women and gender. However, it can be helpful to understand how the majority culture perceives women as you navigate your host community. 

How does religion play a role in how women are expected to dress? Can smiling or making direct eye contact with strangers imply something more than just a friendly gesture? If men stare and catcall while you walk down the street, how do you react? You may become frustrated with local behaviors and attitudes towards women, especially if you feel it prevents you from being yourself. Being a woman abroad can be an eye-opening experience and many students share that the return from studying abroad has given them a more in-depth understanding of their own identity. 

As you prepare for studying abroad, we are here to help and offer the questions and resources below as a starting point. As always, your Education Abroad Advisor is available to assist you with your questions and navigate these resources. 

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AND/OR YOUR EDUCATION ABROAD ADVISOR:

  • Is it safe for me to go out alone? At night? Are there areas or places I should avoid?
  • How are women expected to behave?
  • How do men treat women?
  • What are the cultural norms regarding friendship and dating?
  • Do people in my host country have stereotypes of American women?

TIPS

  • Do research on gender roles and their history beforehand.
  • Put your safety first and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Dress and act like the local women to avoid standing out.
  • Be aware of cultural differences, including body language, that may be misinterpreted in your host culture.
  • Talk with other women who have studied abroad to find out more about their experiences.

Sexual Health While Abroad

  • If you are thinking about being sexually active abroad, inform yourself about STD prevention, birth control, and safe sex practices in your host country.
  • Research and understand the cultural norms, laws and attitudes relating to sex, relationships, and contraception in your host country
  • What are the attitudes toward unmarried women who are sexually active? Are their different attitudes towards sexually active men?
  • What are the expectations and laws regarding consent, rape, and sexual assault?
    • It is important to know that victims do not cause sexual assault, even if there is a cultural or legal difference of what defines assault in another country. Any sexual contact with you without your consent—regardless of how well you know someone, how much you’ve had to drink, or whether some of the sexual activity was consensual – is wrong. 

ON-CAMPUS RESOURCES

GENERAL RESOURCES

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT ABROAD