Unintended Signals & Anti-American Sentiment
Be aware of how you carry yourself and how you dress. Your smile, your stride, or your clothing can mark you as a foreigner and, as one presumed to be less than knowledgeable about the locale and its culture, a potential victim. While not distrusting everyone and every situation, you should be aware of risks and act accordingly.
In general, keep a low profile and try not to make yourself conspicuous. Avoid wearing clothing promoting the United States. Remember that anti-U.S. sentiment exists to varying degrees throughout the world. While in most cases it is non-threatening, it is best to avoid individuals who are vocally critical and/or make you feel uncomfortable. In situations where questions are directed at you, it helps greatly to be educated about U.S. policies and history to the greatest extent possible. Calm explanations can go a long way in diffusing anger and antagonism. If you are in a host country during a pronounced period of anti-American sentiment, avoid places where Americans are known to congregate.
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There may be different behavior standards for men and for women in your host country. Some places may be unsafe or entirely off-limits to women. If you are the only woman around, you probably should not be there. On public transportation, try to sit near other women. Learn how to respond appropriately to whistles and stares brought on just because you are a female or a foreign female. Whether the gestures are compliments, invitations or insults, getting away quickly and quietly is most effective.
Sexual Assault and Harassment
The definition of rape might be perceived differently across cultures; however, it is your definition that counts when it concerns your body. The effects of such a traumatic experience should not be ignored or tolerated. Get help. Report the incident to a trusted support person.
If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed while abroad, remember that only you can decide whom to tell and what steps to take next. For tips on what to do after experiencing sexual assault or harassment and a country-specific list of resources and support services abroad, visit the University of Minnesota's page on International Resources for Sexual Assault and Harassment. Remember that, although sexual violence of any kind can have serious effects, most victims/survivors of these incidents find ways to recover without drastically altering their everyday lives.
LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) students face unique experiences and sometimes additional challenges while abroad. Before going abroad, it’s important to think about the culture of the host country and how attitudes toward the LGBTQIA community may differ from those in the United States. Consider the resources you have available in-country should you face discrimination or legal programs. As always, familiarize yourself with the location and functions of the local U.S. embassy, and seek out LGBTQIA advocacy organizations, as many of these are also accessible to students and travelers alike.
Below is a list of helpful links for LGBTQIA students traveling abroad: