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Diversity and Access Abroad

As part of UM’s commitment to provide equal access to all programs for underrepresented students, CGIS partners with a variety of units in LSA and across the UM system to enhance support for underrepresented students before, during, and after their study abroad experience. This includes students with concerns over both financial and physical access.

If you have specific questions, consult the resources below or email CGIS advisor Sarah Pauling.

UM Resources

Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives

Office of Financial Aid

Spectrum Center  

Services for Students with Disabilities

LGBTQ+ identities abroad

Remember that LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer, or Questioning) identities are historically and culturally specific. The terminologies and social significances Americans are most familiar with are products of a specific time and place. 

Students do not necessarily need to alter their behavior/appearance while abroad, but they should be conscious of how their behavior/appearance translates into the host culture so they can make informed choices to ensure their comfort and safety. 

Similarly, people’s willingness to discuss personal experiences of gender and sexuality may change depending on who is participating in a given interaction, where they are, etc. That does not mean that they are ‘ashamed’ or ‘in denial;’ neither does it mean that those who identify as ‘out’ are comfortable discussing such topics in all situations.

Students who are undergoing medical transition (taking hormones, preparing for SRS, etc.) will need to make sure that they will have the medical resources they need while abroad. Hormones in particular may be very difficult to obtain overseas, and it can be extremely dangerous to cease hormone treatments abruptly if they run out.

Same-sex sexual behavior is illegal in many countries. Furthermore, being open about their sexuality may place students at risk of physical harm, depending on location. 

Make sure you know what your rights are, and make sure someone you trust knows where you are at all times. 

Study abroad participants should not be afraid to ask for help and reach out for support. Intercultural Programs Advisors in the CGIS office (734.764.4311) are LGBTQ allies and can assist students in addressing their concerns and point students in the direction of resources at the host institution and here on campus, such as the Spectrum Center

The UM Spectrum Center (3200 Michigan Union) is also the main LGBTQ+ resource on campus that can help students identify valuable resources and support services. They can be reached by email at, or by phone at 734.763.4186. CGIS students may find especially useful information on the Spectrum Center's International page

External Resources

LGBTQ and similarly-identified students who are not familiar with the legal status and the attendant cultural attitudes of sexual orientation in the host country might consider purchasing the most current edition of one of the various gay and lesbian international reference guides before departing. New York University (NYU) also offers a location specific, student-to-student LGBTQ+ guide written by NYU students, and you can find details about LGBTQ+ rights by country and region at the Equaldex Knowledge Base.

Racial and ethnic identities abroad

Students who are part of racial/ethnic minorities in the US may have a very different experience abroad than students of European descent. It is very likely that students of color will encounter their racial identities in new and unfamiliar ways during their program, as different countries tend to view race in different ways.

The most common situations are:

  • Being part of the majority ethnicity for the first time
  • Being classified as ‘American’ rather than as the self-identified race/ethnicity
  • Being treated as a curiosity by locals because of appearance, skin color, hair texture, and so on
  • Experiencing racism in different forms from the US.

It is important to research your destination so that you are better prepared for whatever situations may arise. Do not be afraid to ask for help and reach out for support. If students are concerned about these issues, they should visit CGIS before their departure to talk with one of the staff or one of our Peer Advisors. 

If students do experience a negative incident abroad and they want to address the issue, they should contact their Program Director or on-site staff. In addition, please contact a CGIS Intercultural Programs Advisor or the CGIS Director at 734.764.4311.

Disabilities and accommodations abroad

Accommodations are available to students who study abroad, and CGIS advisors are available to help you explore your options. The Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office is also available to help you know how the accommodations you receive at UM might be secured for your international experience. Please note that this is not always the case, as different countries have differing laws regarding access and accommodations. Making arrangements for accommodations is the personal responsibility of the student, although CGIS and SSD are available for guidance and assistance. If you hope to use your accommodations abroad, you must obtain an advocacy letter—known as a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations form—from the office of Services for Students with Disabilities. You must submit a copy of this form to CGIS. Please note that need for accommodations is never a criterion for selection or admission to a program.  

In order to determine what accommodations might be possible abroad, the interested student should consult with UM’s SSD, the CGIS Health and Safety Advisor, and the host institution abroad to assess the student’s needs and the accommodation possibilities. It is best for students to identify several programs that meet their academic interests, since many CGIS locations will have different types of accessibility. 

Students should be aware that federal and state laws do not require the university to provide funding for accommodations and facilities beyond US borders.

It is the student’s responsibility to assure that any funding required for special services abroad is arranged well in advance. If funding is not available, students are responsible for all costs associated with special services abroad.

Students who disclose needs at the last minute, or who require accommodations that cannot be made available in the host country, may be advised to postpone participation.

Plan Ahead

Making arrangements for accommodations abroad is the responsibility of the student, though students can contact CGIS and the SSD for guidance. 

It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning will help. The availability of facilities and support services varies from site to site and the range and quality may be different than the services here on the UM campus. Though CGIS cannot guarantee the accessibility of accommodations at study sites, CGIS can provide students with general site-specific knowledge, can refer students to other sources of information, and can recommend an alternate study site if that accommodative services are unavailable.

In the event that accommodations were not approved by the SSD before a student departs, students already abroad are still encouraged to contact the SSD office to see if temporary accommodations can be approved remotely. 

Additional Resources

Among the resources available are returnees who can outline potential challenges of a host country. Also, visit the Mobility International website.

More information can be found within the UM Services for Students with Disabilities handbook.