OGE has long been committed to diversity and inclusive excellence in study abroad programming at Georgetown. Advising appointments, site-specific orientations, and returnee events all aim to prepare Hoyas for situations they will encounter during study abroad and to link them to resources that will help them succeed. Still, study abroad often challenges students to reexamine their personal identities. In hopes of offering more specific and comprehensive support, we are proud to announce the addition of Hoya Identities Abroad to the OGE website.
When living in a foreign culture, certain aspects of each student’s identity will become more salient. “Being outside of the context of Georgetown made me reexamine my priorities and how I fit into the environment around me,” says Sean Berman (SFS ‘19). “I took a lot away from that process of self-reflection. I noticed changes in my attitude and routine while abroad, but some of those also followed me back to the Hilltop. Georgetown students always joke about how ‘abroad changed them,’ but there’s a bit of truth to that.”
We believe that study abroad holds innate value for all students regardless of identity; however, the challenges surrounding identity are specific to every individual. “Students will undoubtedly grapple with various identity challenges throughout study abroad. Perhaps a student is confronting feelings of being racial minority for the first time, or a student is coming to terms with how accomodation resources for their disability may be different in a host country,” says Aileen Evans, the Global Education Information Manager at OGE. “It is important to reflect on this before, during, and after study abroad. Ultimately, study abroad will likely challenge students’ perception of personal identity and lead to a stronger sense of self.” As such, one of the goals of Hoya Identities Abroad is to provide students across identity categories the resources they need in considering a study abroad program and/or participating on one.
The newly-launched page addresses various aspect of identity: ability, economic diversity, first generation college students, gender, heritage seekers, nationality, race & ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Each page contains a section of considerations before choosing a program, recommended research to do before departure, and a list of resources that provide further information.
Danielle Edmonson, the Global Living and Learning Programs Manager, echoed Aileen’s sentiment. “It’s becoming more common during advising appointments for students to inquire about how their identities will be perceived in the host country, and while OGE advisors are equipped to handle such questions, we understand that we are not experts. We’ve found that Georgetown has so many resources to help students from many different backgrounds, but there has never been a clear link connecting students to the resources pertaining to study abroad. In Hoya Identities Abroad, we collaborated with Georgetown offices and centers to better establish that relationship. We all have a stake in giving Georgetown students the highest degree of support possible, and Hoya Identities Abroad is our concerted effort to make that a reality.”
In addition to compiling a list of resources, our second goal is to feature student stories related to identity and study abroad. Each page of Hoya Identities Abroad will include short anecdotes of study abroad returnees who confronted challenges or celebrated their identities in their host countries. The featured stories are not intended to be cautionary, but rather examples of how global education (while at times challenging) is an unparalleled opportunity for personal reflection and growth. (If you are a study abroad returnee that would like to collaborate with OGE on this project, please fill out the Student Stories Form).
We celebrate the diversity of the students that choose to go abroad each year and firmly believes that each Hoya can benefit from expanding the boundaries of learning. The Office is proud to launch Hoya Identities Abroad and hopes that the page will only strengthen Georgetown’s rich tradition of cross-cultural exchange. “Commitment to diversity and supporting all students has always been a top priority of the Office of Global Education,” Aileen remarked. “The idea for launching this page has been in the works since our website overhaul last year, and we couldn’t be more excited about the result. It was a collaborative effort among many campus partners that all support the same mission: making sure all Hoyas are empowered to pursue all opportunities that can enrich their Georgetown experience.”