Gender Abroad

While nearly twice as many women study abroad than men, being a woman in a foreign country can present its challenges. This absolutely shouldn't discourage you from going abroad, but it does mean that there are some things to consider when planning your program and during your time abroad.


Researching your host country is necessary for every study abroad experience, but as a woman, it’s absolutely crucial to find out what kinds of behavior and dress are appropriate. For instance, in some countries smiling at a stranger or looking directly at a person could be construed as sexual. Sometimes what is acceptable behavior for women in the United States is unacceptable or unadvised in other cultures. One of the best ways to research a country is to talk to someone who has gone on a study abroad program to that country in the past, or talk to someone from that country. This will give you a first-hand guide to the culture and behavior towards women in the country you plan to visit. Another way to prepare for your study abroad experience is to research gender roles and their history in the country before you go. Try to find the answers to the following questions before you study abroad:

  • Is it safe for me to go out alone? At night? Are there areas or places I should avoid?

  • How are women expected to behave?

  • How do men treat women?

  • What are the cultural norms regarding friendship and dating?

  • Do people in my host country have stereotypes of American women?

Modified from Diversity Abroad. Read the full article

While there is no specific scholarship for women scholars at Murray State, there are several national scholarships and grants for those who are looking to study abroad. See Study Abroad Scholarships for Women.

It’s important that students consider the implications of being an American woman, and how being a woman might impact interactions, both with males and females abroad. Women are more likely to be impacted by religious and cultural beliefs and traditions in some countries than men. You should always put your safety first and be aware of your surroundings. One way to do this is to dress and act like local women to avoid standing out. If you are planning to stay with a host family, get to know the women and what is expected in their culture. Not only will it be a good way to learn, it will also help you strengthen the relationship between yourself and your host family.

Other Information/tips to remember while abroad:

  • Pack an adequate supply of feminine hygiene products. These may be scarce in some countries. It is also wise to pack antibacterial hand sanitizer.

  • Carry a supply of condoms, even if you don’t expect to meet a new partner. Like hygiene products, these may be difficult to find or unavailable in your destination country.

  • Be prepared to deal with cat-calling while abroad. While it is common in several countries, it is always best to ignore such advances.

  • Plug into a network of women. These can be easy to find, through social networking sites or even using a search engine. Often, these women are excellent sources of information.

  • If meeting someone for the first time, be sure to do so in a public place. Never meet in a private setting.

Some additional resources for you:

  • Canadian Government Safe Travel Guide for Women, Her Own Way

  • - the U.S. government site on advice for women traveling internationally

  • If you have questions on how to dress in a certain country, check out Journey Woman's What Should I Wear, Where?

Campus Resources

Women's Center

Abigail Cox

Suite C102 Oakley Applied Science

Counseling Center

Angie Trzepacz

Suite 104 Oakley Applied Science

Gender and Diversity Studies Programs

Dr. Josh Adair
English & Philosophy

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