Role of women

The role of women varies widely from country to country and culture to culture. This is a good reminder both to better appreciate a destination's traditions as well as for maintaining personal safety.

Thevast majority of female students that study abroad have exciting and safe experiences traveling internationally. However, in some situations, you may feel some frustration with local attitudes and behaviors toward women. This is all part of the international experience, which invariably involves some degree of cultural adjustment.  It's possible that you could find yourself in situations where you experience overt gender discrimination.

Preparation is Key 

It is best to prepare yourself before you travel by doing adequate research so you'll have an idea of what to expect as a woman in the host country. For instance, find out how local women dress, how women are expected to behave, how dating works.  

Your personal safety

Again, research before you go, and talk to others, particularly women, in your host country to learn about local cultural practices. Is it approriate and safe to smile at strangers? To be seen alone with a male companion? Are there areas or particular places it's best to avoid?

Safety tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • At night, travel in groups, and never walk home alone.
  • Be sure you know the local emergency phone number.
  • Observe how local women dress and behave.
  • Prioritize your personal safety over cultural sensitivity.
  • Pay attention to dressing in a culturally appropriate way.
  • For females, the presence of a male friend can deflect unwanted attention.
  • Try pairing up with another solo traveler.
  • Make sure you know the local emergency phone number.
  • Take a self-defense class before going abroad.
  • Stay in hostels with a clientele of travelers like you.
  • Learn basic phrases in the local language.
  • If you are being cat called, avoid eye contact since this can be seen as an invitation in some cultures.
  • Try to arrive at your destination during the day.
  • Engage in conversation with locals about their roles and how to deflect unwanted attention.

Sexual safety

Host country nationals can sometimes have a stereotyped image of American women, often acquired through TV and other media. Men, in particular, might presume a heightened level of sexual promiscuity. Whistling and catcalling are common behaviors in some countries. If you find yourself the target, it's best to avoid eye contact,  since this can be seen as an invitation in some cultures. Cultural sensitivity does not mean you must submit to behaviors that make you uncomfortable or invade your personal boundaries. When in doubt, prioritize personal safety over cultural sensitivity.

Find more practical advice about sexual safety for women students. 

Campus Resources

SDSU Women's Resource Center

If you have any concerns before or after you study abroad, then the Women's Resource Center is a good place to visit for support.

Counseling and Psychological Services 
Counseling & Psychological Services (C&PS) is availbale if you wish to speak with a counselor... 

Resources for Women Travelers

Her Own Way
This publication is filled with practical tips specifically of interest to the female traveler.

Journey Woman
Travel tips geared toward women, including everything from personal travel stories to what to wear.

Sexual Assault Support and Help for Americans Abroad (SASHAA)
Providing sexual assault prevention & response regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or location worldwide.