My Identity Abroad & Away
When we travel, we pack more with us than just our bags. We also carry our identities, both what’s visible and invisible – from our age and our skin color, to our religion, gender, sexuality, our disabilities, nationality, our past experiences and more. Traveling may change how others see us and how we see ourselves. By going abroad or away, we have the amazing opportunity to explore who we are, who we want to be, and how the world around us perceives us in different cultural contexts.
So how do you identify? Have you thought about how your identity might affect your experience at your host destination? Jump start your curiosity by coming up with a few, “I wonder…” questions for yourself (examples below):
- I wonder what it’s like to use a wheelchair in Italy?
- I wonder what it’s like to live in Los Angeles when you’re from a small town in Appalachian Ohio?
- I wonder what it’s like to be Black/African American in China?
- I wonder what it’s like to practice Islam in Peru?
- I wonder which countries have the most legal protections for people in the LGBTQ+ community?
- I wonder what it feels like to be American in Southeast Asia?
As you’re planning for your travels, keep in mind some of those, "I wonder..." questions and do your research to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that exploring the world can bring!
Wondering where to start? You can also check out some of the available resources curated by the staff here at the Office of Global Opportunities for a variety of types of identities you may hold. Check out Diversity Abroad, a leading organization in international education, for great blogs, tips, scholarships and resources. For a deeper dive, learn more about The ADDRESSING Model through the Ohio University Psychology Department.
Intersectionality and Your Experience
We recognize that you don’t just hold one identity – and that sometimes, the identities most visible to others are not what are most important to you. We encourage you to look at many of the different resources sections to get a sense of how your identities might intersect in different ways while you’re traveling. Keep in mind that every individual’s identity is unique to them, and so your experience may differ from other folks who have traveled before you.
Our office does encourage you to reach out if you have specific questions that you are having a hard time finding a resource for you, or if you have a suggestion on a good resource we may have missed! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions or questions.
A Note on Allyship
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson, Visual artist, activist and academic
Wherever we are, we can be an ally. What do we mean by “ally” and what is allyship? PeerNetBC, a non-profit organization in British Columbia and member of the Anti-Oppression Network gives us a great definition to work with - “Allyship is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people.”
While you are abroad or away, no matter what identities you hold, you’ll likely find yourself doing some of the work of allyship – you’ll begin or continue the process of unlearning and re-evaluating things you felt you knew were certain. Take this as an opportunity to grow and support others that are a part of your experience. Examine biases and privileges you may have. Build global networks of solidarity with causes that you may already be engaged in. While allyship is not an identity, it is a responsibility that we encourage you to take on.
One step you can take today towards becoming a better ally is to read/watch/listen to stories about identities other than your own as you research about what it might be like to travel abroad or away. On all of our “My Identity” pages, you’ll find “Allyship Tips” at the bottom of the page. Also, check out the GuideToAllyship.com for more information.