Despite heavy ties with Christianity in the U.S., the founding principle of religious freedom has resulted in a unique and pluralistic landscape. Each country has its own rich history of religious and spiritual traditions, which may or may not have a place in government systems and societal norms. Religion may be absent entirely from mainline culture, or it may be a guiding principle for everyday interactions. Historical factors may result in a unique blend of religions and spiritual practices that differ from typical expression at home. As you travel internationally, your core beliefs may be solidified, shaken, or expanded. Above all, you should value this time to reflect on your own belief system as an entity that’s larger than your own experience.
As you research, consider these questions:
What is the religious/spiritual makeup of my destination? Do my beliefs align with a majority or minority group?
Does religion factor heavily in the government and legislation of my host country? If so, what laws do I need to be aware of? What protections exist for members of religious/spiritual minority populations?
Are there widespread religious or spiritual norms that I need to respect during my travel?
Which principles of my faith or spirituality am I willing to explore and expand on? Which do I want to stand firm on?
Are there faith or spiritual communities that I can join while I travel?
How does my religion or spirituality interact with other aspects of my identity in the context of my host country?
What information and/or support systems do I need in order to ensure my safety and well-being while abroad?
Am I able to achieve and experience the things I want from this program in a safe way?
These resources may be helpful when considering how your gender could influence your international experience:
WVU Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: https://diversity.wvu.edu/
The Pluralism Project - The Pluralism Project at Harvard University seeks to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity.
U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Information - The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom describes the status of religious freedom in every country.