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Identities Abroad

In Education Abroad, we recognize and celebrate that WVU students represent multifaceted and complex identities. We value this diversity of perspective, and desire for each student to consider how their own identity can add depth and dimension to their international experiences.

While abroad, you may find that some aspects of your identity may be perceived in ways you never expected. Maybe you’ll join a demographic that’s new to you; maybe one or many parts of your identity will take on a new significance. Your nationality could very well become a key identifier to members of your host community, and you may find yourself talking about issues that you’d never paid much attention to up till now—and you more than likely won’t be equipped to answer on behalf of the whole country!

When you travel, you become an ambassador. You represent yourself, your family, home country, university, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, ability… and the list goes on. Just as your experience abroad offers you a slice of what that culture has to offer, your presence offers your hosts a face to associate with each facet of your identity. Whether you’ve spent years or just minutes reflecting on your identity, international travel forces you to interact with your own identity in new ways.

We encourage you to explore and reflect on the resources on this page to guide you as you consider how your own unique identity can contribute to your experience abroad—and in turn, how studying abroad will take root and become a new part of your identity.

As you explore this website, reflect on these questions:

  • What are some aspects of my identity that may require examination during this experience? Which ones do I tend to give the most or least attention to while in my comfort zone?

  • What groups could I be representing while abroad, consciously or unconsciously? How can I prepare to be a positive and effective ambassador?

  • How might “international traveler” challenge, affirm, and/or intertwine with my existing identities?

  • In what ways am I excited about growing and evolving in my identity by traveling? What concerns do I have about studying abroad, and how do these relate to my identity?

As you explore these many questions throughout your planning and travel, know that Education Abroad is prepared to support you. As you research programs and prepare to go abroad, plan to meet with an Education Abroad coordinator who can help you with any questions and provide you with resources to be successful in your experiences. Once abroad, you can always rely on the university to provide you support in any situation.