Diversity and Inclusion

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First Generation Students

There are many resources available to help prepare you to study abroad, and with proper planning you can have a successful experience. Some concerns might include how to get your family to recognize the benefits of your time abroad, how to pay for your experience, how to find assistance with the application process, and how to get a passport.

Explain study abroad to parents and family
When you first tell your parents or family about your decision to study abroad, they might be skeptical of your decision; they might not understand the idea of studying abroad. What’s best is to simply talk to them. Explain your reasons for wanting to study abroad and the benefits you will receive, and provide them with the information that will help them understand.

Talk about the benefits of studying abroad
Take time to explain to your parents and family how your study abroad experience can allow you to more easily pursue various career opportunities. Employers look for applicants who have problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and who are mature and flexible. By studying abroad, you will be showing employers your ability to adapt to new environments and your communication skills with different groups of people. Your study abroad experience will also impact you personally: It can boost your confidence and level of responsibility as well as your independence and creates diverse and lifelong friendships with the people you meet.

Explain how you can receive financial aid and scholarships towards studying abroad
Inform your parents and family that you will only have to worry about expenses not covered by your specific program. Create a sense of security for them by letting them know that you are aware of the expenses you are committing to and that you are willing to budget and/or to get a part-time job to cover expenses not covered by your ISU financial aid and scholarships. There are a number of scholarships you can apply for to help with your expenses, and some are specifically designated for first-generation students. Read this article for additional information and some scholarship recommendations.  Yes, You CAN Study Abroad as a First Generation Student.


Testimonial from a first-generation Iowa State student who studied abroad:
“As a first generation college student, convincing my parents to agree to me studying abroad was quite challenging. They didn't understand my need to go abroad and would ask me “Why do you want to travel so far from home?” “Can we even afford to send you abroad?” and “Will it be safe?” Studying abroad for a semester or a year is different from visiting that country for vacation. It allowed me to immerse myself in Korean culture. I persistently talked to my parents about how studying abroad would allow me to be one step closer to achieving my goal of working abroad. After they realized how passionate I was about studying abroad, they became more supportive and helped me prepare for my trip. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve made because it allowed me to experience the future I want to live.”

Ethel Banks, South Korea
Civil Engineering, Class of 2019


LGBT Students

In order to have a safe and rewarding experience while studying abroad, it’s important to be aware of the cultural, legal, and social issues regarding sexual identity and how they could affect you or your interactions with people in your host country. While some countries could be generally more accepting of LGBT individuals than the U.S., there may be more conservative areas in each country as well. The following resources can assist you in researching your destination country and learning more about the experiences of LGBT students abroad.

U.S. Department of State LGBTI Travel Information
Up-to-date information for LGBTI people traveling abroad. Includes helpful pre-departure tips and advice.

U.S. Department of State Passport Gender Designation Change
Link to change the gender designation marker on your passport.

Sexual Orientation Laws
A map of the world with each country’s laws regarding sexual orientation.

9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT,
from GoOverseas.com

LGBT Student Guide for Education Abroad
from the University of South Florida


Multicultural Students

We encourage all Iowa State students to study abroad, regardless of cultural background. Becoming a more culturally-aware and globally-minded citizen is essential for your future and career. While you may be classified by your ethnicity or race in the U.S., students often find they are first identified as an American while abroad. Attitudes toward underrepresented groups vary greatly among cultures. It is also important to consider that even if you are not a minority in your home country, you may be a minority in your host country

We have worked with several Multicultural Vision Program (MVP) and George Washington Carver Program (GWC) scholars who have studied abroad. Our staff is familiar with the requirements for MVP and GWC scholarships to carry over to study abroad programs, so we encourage you to ask us questions when you are considering applying for a program.

Iowa State Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

The following are some resources to assist you in researching your destination country and learning more about the experiences of multicultural students abroad:

Study Abroad in Color
Check out this webinar recording that features several Iowa State study abroad alumni discussing their identity while abroad.

AllAbroad.us - Helping All Students to Study Abroad
Helping students from diverse backgrounds find study abroad resources and obtain advice from study abroad mentors.

Diversity Abroad is a valuable resource geared towards promoting study abroad opportunities for multicultural students. The site includes blogs, profiles, and forums from underrepresented students studying abroad, financial resources, and a searchable program database.

PLATO: The Center for Global Education's PLATO Project (Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach) is an integrated study abroad training, certification, and diversity outreach program that provides comprehensive support resources for study abroad to all U.S. college and university students – with special support for underrepresented students.


Testimonial from a multicultural Iowa State student who studied abroad:
“Simply put, studying abroad has been the best time of my life. My study abroad experience has been a unique one given my situation. Being an Asian American, studying abroad gave me unique experiences and perceptions of others as well as their perceptions of me. In the summer of 2016, I studied abroad in Hong Kong. I loved every aspect of it, from the food, the city, the diversity, friends and the culture; everything came together to be the best experience of my life. Given my Chinese ancestry, before I went to study abroad I had the initial perception that I would fit right in; however, when I arrived in Hong Kong I noticed that people there considered me and saw me as American despite my Chinese ancestry. When studying abroad students will find that they will be seen as American rather than their apparent looks or ancestry. This should not be worrisome but rather should be embraced to spread the diversity of Americans to the rest of the world.”

Brighton Lui, Hong Kong
Supply Chain Management & International Studies, Class of 2018


Students with Disabilities

Just as cultures differ, so do disability accommodations and perceptions abroad.
Be aware that the ADA does not apply outside of the United States, so accommodations may differ in each country. However, many institutions are increasingly offering accommodations for students with disabilities. Students are encouraged to communicate their needs to Student Disability Resources and their study abroad program coordinator to find a good program fit and to find ways to meet accommodation needs.

Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, talking with your study abroad program coordinator, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.


Mobility International Mobility International USA (MIUSA) aspires to empower people with disabilities through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training, to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange and development programs. This page catalogs stories of past study abroad participants with disabilities.

National Clearninghouse on Disability Exchange A comprehensive one-stop resource for people with disabilities, exchange and disability staff interested in study, work, intern, volunteer, research or teach abroad programs.

Studying in UK as a disabled student If you are interested in studying or interning abroad in the United Kingdom specifically, you may find this resource helpful to learn about your rights, resources available at UK universities, and more.

Military and Veteran Students

Veteran students and their family members (in some cases) can apply their VA benefits to their study abroad experience, but it is important to plan ahead. It is recommended that you work closely with the Iowa State Veterans Center and your VA Certifying official in the Registrar’s Office. It is important to know that VA benefits will only cover the equivalent of ISU tuition and that VA benefits cannot be applied to all types of programs. Contact your study abroad advisor for additional information.

Here are some other facts you should know concerning study abroad for military veterans:

•  Students must be enrolled in courses that will apply toward one of their majors.
•  The programs at the “host” school in the foreign country must be approved.
•  VA could provide a monthly housing allowance to the student, if the student is enrolled more than ½-time that the student uses to help pay room and board costs.
•  VA could provide a books and supplies stipend.
•  VA will pay no charges directly to the host school.
•  VA could not pay for any fees specifically due to participation in the study abroad program unless study abroad was mandatory for the specific degree.
•  VA cannot pay airfare.

If you are currently serving in the military, Reserves, or National Guard, you will have to communicate and work with your unit at least 6 months ahead of time so both you and your unit can make a plan, be better prepared, and determine your best course of action.

Iowa State Veteran’s Certifying Officials Contact Information

Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship (INGSS)

Iowa State Military-Affiliated Student Center


Testimonial from a National Guard student who studied abroad:
“Even though I’m currently serving in the National Guard, I knew I wanted to do an Annual Study Abroad, but I didn’t know where to start or how to go about it with my unit because of all the time I would miss out on training. With the support of the Veterans Center, Iowa State University and my own research, I gained the support to help set me up for success when communicating with my unit on how to go about the process. My Study Abroad experience was well worth the hassle just to get there. It is an eye-opening experience unlike any other, especially when compared to the military lifestyle it’s a complete 180. It provided me with an experience that I’ll never forget.”

Rachel Dankbar, France
Marketing and International Business, Class of 2017