Religion and Spirituality

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Religion is significant in many cultures. While abroad, you may encounter people of various religious and non-religious backgrounds. Maybe you’re used to being part of the religious majority at home but will be part of a religious minority abroad—perhaps the reverse is true. It is important to understand your personal beliefs and those of the host culture to identify challenges as well as opportunities that may arise during your global education experience. 
You should consider not only your personal religious views and/or practices, if any, but also the dominant religion(s) on site and how religion affects local culture and laws. Whether you identify as a member of the dominant religion, a member of another religion, an agnostic, an atheist, or with any other religious or spiritual affiliation, it will be important to understand general attitudes toward religious tolerance and religious observances while abroad.

Consider the following before you go:

  • How much do I know about the religion(s) of my host location and the role religion plays in society?  
  • What is the dominant religion? Will I be part of the religious majority or minority abroad in my host location? 
  • Are there any laws regarding religion in my host location?  
  • How will people perceive my religion? What is the attitude of people in my host location toward other religions? Is it safe for me to wear religious symbols or clothing? 
  • Will my religion’s holidays be observed in my host location? If they are not, how do I plan to observe them in my own way? 
  • Will I have access to my religion’s place of worship or religious groups? If not, how will I adjust my religious practice while abroad? 
  • Will my religious dietary restrictions be accommodated in my host location? If not, how can I prepare?  
  • If I plan to live in a homestay, am I open to living in a homestay with a religious background different from my own? 
  • What are ways I can respect the religion in my host location and participate in cultural events, even if I don't practice that religion?
During your global education experience, we advise you to remain open-minded about religious practices, even if you receive criticism for your beliefs. If you are planning to practice your religion abroad, you may want to find out what places of worship there are locally. Be sure to let your program director or appropriate staff know if you have any religious dietary restrictions. Use the local religion as lens to the local culture. Seek to understand the interplay of culture, religion, society, and individual practices or beliefs of the dominant and minority religions. Consider attending local worship services as these can give valuable insights to the host community.