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When deciding where to study abroad, it is important to consider how gender norms vary depending on the location and culture of the host country.  As a part of choosing your program and deciding where to go, please consider the items and resources below.

Things to consider

  • Research the benefits of studying abroad. Studies show that men often feel that study abroad is frivolous and prevent them from competing their degrees on time.  Research indicates, however, that students gain confidence while studying abroad and they have higher grade point averages and degree completion rates compared to their peers. Studying abroad can help you to distinguish yourself from others in the work force so it will also be important to understand how these benefits can translate into professional competencies that will give you an edge on the job market at the end of the college experience.
  • Work with your academic advisor to understand how studying abroad will impact completing your degree on-time.  Discuss your plans with your academic advisor early and often.
  • Research the attitude towards gender and the expectations for men and women in your host society and reflect on how the differences may affect your experience:
    • Understand that in some societies unmarried men and women are not allowed to spend time together.   If you are accustomed to having female friends, understand that you may not be able to spend time with them in your host country.
    • In other locations, where females do not feel as comfortable or safe, you may be asked to accompany them when going out.   Consider how your friend(s) may be feeling in this situation and ask yourself if you would be comfortable taking on that role. 
    • Research the interactions in your host country between men.   You may find that in some places it is not uncommon for heterosexual male friends to hold hands, hug or welcome each other with kisses. Ask yourself how comfortable you would be if this is the norm in your host culture.
    • If you are on a program specifically built for American students studying abroad, you might be vastly outnumbered by women.  Ask yourself how you would react if you go to a location where this might be the case. 
  • Protecting yourself and safety should be your first priority
    • You should exercise the same safety precautions that you would at home. In addition, you need to be mindful that it may be difficult to conceal that you are a foreigner and this may make you more vulnerable.  Please refer to the Personal Safety and Crime section on the AU Abroad website.
    • If you choose to be sexually active, practice safe sex and protect yourself and your partners from unintended pregnancy, and STIs. Cultural norms, laws and attitudes relating to sex, relationships, and contraception differ from country to country and culture to culture and you need to be aware of these differences.  Please refer to the Sexual Health section on the AU Abroad website for further information.


The AU Abroad Office can advise you on your study abroad options and help you find the right program for your major and personal goals.  Tel: 202-885-1320 or

Diversity Abroad is an organization dedicated to increasing participation and better serving the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in international education. They have a diversity and inclusion abroad guide on their website.