People may experience a shift in the importance gender plays in their (perceived) identities while abroad.
For men, this might mean they are expected to adopt a more "traditional," machismo attitude toward life and women. For instance, men in some cultures consider people-watching and "catcalling" to women an acceptable pastime. This may be offensive to a student and may be a difficult role to assume. On the other hand, men may find more discomfort with the open affection between men in many cultures. In some countries, it is not uncommon for heterosexual male friends to hold hands while walking down the street, or to greet each other with kisses on the cheek. A student can learn from the perceptions and expectations of men to gain a deeper understanding of the culture as a whole.
Women comprise about 65% of U.S. students studying abroad today and treatment and expectations of women vary greatly from culture to culture. Women may encounter restrictions in dress, behavior, and activities. While this may at first seem very limiting, there are also activities and behaviors in these cultures that are women-only. Though this kind of restriction can be frustrating at times, it is also a rare chance to learn about and understand the special roles of women in these cultures. To learn more about gender issues abroad, please follow these links:
*Adapted from The University of Seattle Education Abroad with special thanks to Lucas Bierlein for content contribution.
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