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Religion and Spirituality

While studying abroad, religion and spirituality are important topics to explore. This is especially true in cases where religious beliefs have a major impact on the culture of your host country and/or if spirituality plays an important role in your personal life. 

If a religious belief system has a prominent place and plays an influential role in the culture of your chosen host country, it is important that you learn about those beliefs. In countries where a particular religion is a major part of day-to-day life, it may impact the local laws, dietary customs, and/or cultural norms. Regardless of your own religious beliefs, understanding those of your host culture will help you to more easily traverse cultural barriers and will make for a smoother transition to life abroad.

Students who practice a particular religion may want to learn more about how their beliefs and religious practices align with those of the host culture. You might want to consider, too, how accessible it could be to practice your spirituality in a particular location. 

Keep in Mind: Some cultures may have different views about religion and spirituality, and may have laws that limit religious freedom, so it is important that you do your research and be prepared before you study abroad.

Things to Consider Before Going Abroad

  • How much do I know about the religion(s) of my host country and the role that religion plays in society? What is the dominant religion?
  • ​Will I be a part of the religious majority or minority in my host country?
  • What is the attitude of people in my host country toward other religions?
  • How will people perceive my religion? Is my religion legal in my host country?
  • Are there any laws regarding religion in my host country? Are there laws that prohibit bringing particular personal religious articles (i.e. religious scriptures, religious clothing or emblems, etc.) into the country? Is there any separation between religion and government?
  • Will I have access to my religion’s place of worship or religious groups? If not, am I able to adjust my religious practices while abroad?
  • Will I be able to fulfill the obligations of my religion while in my host country? How do I plan to address this and/or to observe them in my own way?
  • Will my religious dietary restrictions be able to be accommodated in my host country?
  • If I plan to live in a homestay, am I open to living in a home environment with a religious background different from my own?

Things to Consider While Abroad

  • How does the role of religion in my host country compare to the role of religion in the U.S.?
  • How tolerant is my host country of other religions? How tolerant are they of atheists and/or agnostics?
  • What places of worship and/or religious communities exist in my host country?
  • What are ways that I can respect the predominate religion of my host country and participate in local cultural events, even if I don’t practice that religion?
  • Is it safe for me to wear religious symbols and/or religious clothing items in my host country?

Highlighted Resources

  • Edwards, Amanda. The Jewish Side of Buenos Aires. Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me.
  • Hamilton, Alicia. Navigating Faith in a Post-Faith Society. Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me.
  • Mckinney, Charles. Feeding My Faith as a Global Citizen. Diversity Abroad: Study Abroad Articles, 21 January 2015.
  • Diversity Abroad - Provides tips for students on how to best prepare for studying abroad; includes advice, scholarship information, student testimonials, and more.
  • The Pluralism Project, Harvard University - This website acts a hub for links to resources about religion and spirituality around the world.
  • U.S. Department of State - International Religious Freedom Information
  • Kahal: Your Jewish Home Abroad
  • IFSA-Bulter. Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. “Faith Communities.”