Faith, Religion, & Spirituality Abroad
If spirituality or religion plays a big part in your day-to-day life, then planning ahead will make your transition to life abroad easier. Research your host community to find out what kind of services are available. If your regular religious services aren’t offered in the city you will be living in, how will that impact your mental or spiritual health? Are there services available in English? Does the religious institution that you normally attend in the U.S. offer distance services (such as online sessions or distance counselling)? If not, are there personal practices you could participate in to help you feel more connected (meditation, yoga, prayer, etc.)? Check out IFSA-Butler’s Unpacked Student Stories to read about other students’ experiences abroad.
Even if you do not consider yourself religious, the culture of your host country could have very strong ties with the dominant religion. Educate yourself before you leave about the norms and customs of a country. Be respectful and mindful of cultural customs that might stem from religion, even if you do not follow that particular belief. If the dominant religion is not one that you follow, don’t make assumptions – learn about the religion and do some research on its history before you arrive. One of the benefits of studying abroad is cultural immersion and the ability to learn about a culture in a way that you would not have been able to if you had stayed in the U.S.
Things to Consider*
- Is it safe to practice my religion in the country I will be living in?
- Is the host country tolerant of my religious beliefs? Are they tolerant of non-religious people?
- What religious holidays does my host country observe?
- Demonstrate respect for other religions besides your own, wear appropriate attire when required. If you are unsure about what is appropriate, be sure to ask!
- If your religion includes dietary restrictions, will you be able to keep that diet while abroad?
- If you are comfortable doing so, attending a religious gathering with your program or host family can help you gain a better sense of a differing religious perspective.
Resources Beyond K-State
- Diversity Abroad: Information about religious diversity abroad
- The Pluralism Project by Harvard
- U.S. Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom
- Buddhanet: Buddhist groups and meditation groups by region
- The Catholic Directory: Catholic churches by region
- Islamic Finder: Prayer times and local mosque locations
- KAHAL – Finding Jewish Communities Abroad
- Blogging and vlogging is becoming very popular is a way for students to journal their time abroad. Try looking for student stories on YouTube!