Students abroad face a new cultural context with different understandings of ethnicity, identity, sexual orientation, religion.
As you would expect, two individuals studying abroad in the same country on the same program will not have quite the same experience. For the majority of students, study abroad is an amazing and sometimes life changing experience. But just like life at your home school, you may encounter some discrimination on your travels. For some students when they study abroad it will be the first time they experience being in the position of a minority.
Being an American in France, you will be a minority and may receive additional attention depending on your background and ethnicity, which may or may not be discrimination. People might judge you based on your ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or gender.
Before leaving, think about how to express your identity abroad. The way you define yourself in the United States might change in France and you may face stereotypes, questions and some curiosity concerning your identity.
Being in a different cultural context is a unique opportunity to change and grow. Before you leave, look up the history, culture and laws of France, talk to students who have also studied there and also go to the VWPP French page to check the links about diversity and inclusion in Paris. Explore the different websites and learn more about Parisian culture and possible ways to express your identity in France.
Remember, nowhere in the world is 100-percent free of ignorant people. Don’t let the possibility of discrimination prevent you from experiencing the life changing benefits of living abroad. If you feel that you are being harassed or discriminated against, please discuss it with one of the program staff. We encourage you to learn more about diversity and inclusion abroad (and specifically in France) before you leave.
- FirstGen students
- Women abroad
Although women study abroad all the time without facing serious issues, here are a few links to prepare you for what you need to know when abroad.
– Diversity abroad
– Traveling on your own
– Journey women (this site has over 55,500 female subscribers, sharing their travel stories and tips).
Mobility International is a U.S.-based national non-profit organization/ The mission of Mobility International U.S.A. (MIUSA) is to empower people with disabilities around the world through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training, and to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange programs.
French citizens might be interested to learn about your traditions. However, common misconceptions and misunderstandings about the role of religion in public life can occur on both sides. Go to the VWPP French page for more information about various religion.
- Race and Ethnicity
In the U.S., you might be classified by your ethnicity, but abroad, you may be identified first as an American. The people you meet will likely have an opinion about the U.S., and may be eager to tell you what they think, positive or negative.
Here is a website with important information and tips before going abroad, click here.
Also, read some articles written by IES Abroad Correspondents on how their racial and ethnic identities intersect with their study abroad and internship experiences here.
Here is a thoughtful article published on ISA today with tips for LGBT Students Abroad, with insights from a student in Paris – click here.
Initiatives and events
The Vassar-Wesleyan program in Paris is committed to foster diversity and inclusion in classrooms and offices. We believe that a diverse and inclusive community strengthens learning opportunities. This is why we offer courses focusing on gender, postcolonialism in France, race and equality as well as informal discussion meetings on the theme of identity in France. All students are welcome.
In keeping with Vassar’s and Wesleyan’s policies, we are committed to promoting diversity within our staff, hosts, students and curriculum. This webpage was created so you can find information and resources on diversity and inclusion at the VWPP, Reid Hall, and in Paris.
Here are some of the courses we offer at the VWPP:
- Women, Gender, Sexuality, and Colonialism/Post Colonialism
- Parisian transports : mobilities, migrations and emotions
- Art and Politics : The activist artist
- France and the Maghreb: A history of colonial and postcolonial relations
- The French West Indies
- “Arabs,” Islam and political life in France (1962-2018)
Here are some of the courses on offer at our partner universities:
- Women and reform
- Cultural construction of national identities
- Cultural sociology of the arab world
- Arts of Islam
- Migrations and interethnicity
- The history of gender
Reid Hall also organizes numerous conferences, workshops, exhibitions and roundtables on these themes.