Understanding Identity

While traveling, it is important for students to understand the intersectional implications at play both within themselves and within those they will interact with. Intersectionality is the interconnection of various facets of someone's identity. Race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, and sexuality are just some aspects that may interact within an individual. It is important for travelers to acknowledge their various identities so that they can navigate foreign social spheres with greater ease. It is also very important to have an increased sensitivity to the various identities that reside in everyone the traveler encounters. 

For example, in having a casual conversation with a local at a bar, you learn that they identify as male and disclose that they have a male partner. Homosexuality is legal, but still very stigmatized in the society where you are, therefore it would be wise to not publicize that individuals' sexuality to anyone else. Paying close attention to the behaviors of those around you and what motivates them will aid you in behaving properly and reading social cues. The interactions between identity and society is a delicate dance; however it is crucial to respecting culture and blending it. This is a process already programed within us at home, so much so that we do not notice it operating when in our native culture. Having sensitivity when interacting with others may also help to create more friendships while abroad, which is a great way to feel connected and supported. practice this next time you are speaking with a stranger here at home!

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