Religious Diversity Abroad
Religion plays a role in many cultures around the world. Whether you practice a religion or not, going abroad exposes you to different belief systems, which gives you an opportunity to learn more about your host country’s culture. Do your best to understand the majority religion being practiced in your host country, especially if it is one you are largely unfamiliar with.
It is a good idea to research religion in your host country before you go abroad. Maybe you’re used to being part of the religious majority at home, but will be part of the religious minority abroad. If you are planning to practice your religion abroad, ask locals or your program staff to see if there are any places where you can worship safely. Even if you don't practice a religion yourself, many on your program may. It can be helpful to find ways to support your peers, and to understand how to be an ally for them while you're abroad. You’ll also want to find out what degree of religious tolerance there is in your host country.
By going abroad, you’ll gain a new perspective on religions as they are practiced around the world. You’ll return home with an increased familiarity with other belief systems and a greater respect for them.
Must Ask Questions about Religion:
- What is the dominant religion in my host country?
- Will I be part of the religious majority or minority abroad?
- Are there any laws regarding religion? Is there a separation between religion and government?
- How tolerant is the host country of other religions? What about atheists and agnostics?
- Is it safe for me to wear religious symbols or clothing?
- What are ways I can respect the religion in my host country and participate in cultural events, even if I don't practice that religion?
Tips about Religion:
- Stay 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.
- If you have religious dietary restrictions, be sure to let your program director or appropriate staff know ahead of time, especially if you are living with a host family.
- Depending on where you go, religion may have a larger or smaller role than it does in the U.S.
- Use your experience abroad to learn about world religions the role they play in diverse cultures.