Be who you are—at MIT and all over the world

MISTI strives to foster a diverse and inclusive community, whether you’re here on campus or travelling as part of an international experience. While going abroad is exhilarating and transformative, it’s also important to consider the different contexts—cultural, legal, political, religious, economic, social—that are part of daily life in other countries.

Check out some of the resources we’ve compiled to help you plan an informed and authentic journey for yourself, and feel free to contact the MISTI managers to answer any specific questions or concerns you have.

Check out the IdentityX Blogs

Students near a mountain

Perspectives on identity abroad


Each year, MISTI hosts a series of training sessions to better prepare our students for immersion in a new culture. Topics such as “Health and Safety” and “Cross-Cultural Communications” provide you with the tools to explore a new city and workplace.

In partnership with groups across campus—the Institute Community Equity Office, LGBTQ+ Services, ISO, Multicultural Programs, OME, Community Wellness, Student Disabilities Services, and VPR—MISTI hosts diversity, equity, and inclusion events to help you navigate various identities abroad.

As you plan your program abroad, consider the various facets of your identity and how those may impact your time in a new culture, new country, and new community. Discuss any concerns and questions with your MISTI program manager and take advantage of the resources available to you—at MIT, at MISTI, and online.

  • Attend your country pre-departure trainings
  • Attend different MISTI "Identity Abroad" events
  • Research your host country’s history, culture, laws, and demographics
  • Reach out to students who have done MISTI in your host country
  • Make use of online resources that provide personal stories, blogs, videos
  • Talk to your MISTI program manager

Going abroad can be stressful in a new cultural and physical setting. Accommodations that you may not need at home may be necessary in your program country. If you choose to disclose your disability, be sure to discuss your needs with your MISTI program manager and the Student Disability Services office. Many accommodations require early planning, and requests for accommodations that are made as early as possible will allow us to better assist you in each specific country and workplace. 

As you start thinking about a MISTI trip, consider:

  • Do you want to let other people know about your disability?
  • Will your disability affect which programs you consider?
  • Will your disability prevent you or limit you from participating in certain excursions because of inaccessibility? 
  • How can you plan in advance?

As you start planning, also think about the following:

  • If you are using prescription medication, research what steps need to be taken in order to continue your routine abroad
  • Understand that the variety of care, counseling, and support you are used to in the U.S. may not be accessible abroad
  • Discuss accessibility related to your housing with your MISTI program manager
  • Talk with other students with disabilities about their experiences abroad
  • Plan in advance and utilize resources 
  • Research your host environment and culture
    • How accessible are the areas in the country you are visiting?
    • How are people with disabilities viewed/treated?
    • How should you respond to people abroad trying to help you when you do not want or need it?

MISTI program managers will work closely with you to answer accessibility questions, help you navigate cultural challenges, and provide you with tips for adapting to a new country.

  • Mobility International USA: A disability-led non-profit organization headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, USA advancing disability rights and leadership globally. Site includes personal stories and podcasts from people with disabilities going abroad and the positive impact these experiences have on shifting ideas of what is possible.
  • Accessible Travel Online Resources: Lonely Planet’s largest list of online resources for accessible travel. 
  • The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH): An educational, nonprofit, membership organization whose mission is to raise awareness of the needs of all travelers with disabilities, remove physical and attitudinal barriers to free access and expand travel opportunities in the United States and abroad.
  • Traveling with a Disability: A guide to accessible tourism for people with disability.
  • Transitions Abroad: Disability Travel: “It’s worth it.” Interviews with travelers who have made the journey overseas—as a person with a disability or as an exchange leader with participants with disabilities on the program—admit to the reflective value of the experience time and time again.

While abroad you may face different interpretations of your race, ethnicity, and other characteristics that are quite different from what you are used to in the U.S. 

As you start thinking about a MISTI trip, consider:

  • How is your race/ethnicity perceived in the country you will be visiting? Are there certain stereotypes you might face?
  • Is there a possibility you will experience discrimination, racism or classism? How will you handle it?
  • How will you handle questions about your racial/ethnic group? Is the person curious or do they have bad intentions?
  • What are the racial/ethnic minorities and majorities of the country you will be visiting?
  • Is there history of or current hostile racial/ethnic tensions?
  • Are there any immigration/migration political issues that may impact race/ethnic relations?
  • Will there be other racial/ethnic minorities in your program? Is that important to you?
  • Has your host family hosted students of different races before? If not, will it be an issue?
  • Who can you talk to at MISTI or MIT about any discrimination while you are abroad?

As you start planning, also think about the following:

  • Research current news in the county you will be visiting as well as cultural perceptions and stereotypes.
  • Talk to your MISTI program manager before and during the program about any questions or concerns.
  • Understand that you may encounter discrimination or prejudice while abroad. People may also generalize or incorrectly identify your ethnicity/race.
  • Talk to other students who have been abroad or read personal stories/blogs, articles, watch videos, etc.
  • People may stare, take pictures, or try to touch your hair and skin. Others may ask you insensitive questions.
  • If someone’s actions or words offend you, try to determine if it’s malicious or, rather, curiosity about you and your culture. If it’s the latter, try to use it as a teachable moment.

MISTI program managers will work closely with you to address your questions, help you navigate possible cultural challenges, and provide you with tips for thriving in a new country.

Religion and spirituality impact cultures around the world. As you begin to consider a MISTI experience, start to consider:

  • Is the country tolerant of other religions or those with no religious beliefs? What is their main religion or are multiple religions followed?
  • How do people perceive your religion?
  • Is it safe to worship or wear religious symbols and/or clothing?
  • Will you be able to access your places of worship or groups?
  • Are there any laws about religion? Is there separation between church and the government?
  • Will you be able to access proper foods if you have dietary restrictions?

As you start planning your trip, also think about the following:

  • Keep an open mind about religions that may be different from your own as it will help you learn more about the culture of the country you are visiting.
  • Research places of worship before you go, if you plan on practicing while abroad. If they are not available, determine how you will maintain your practice.
  • Try to stay current with news about religion in the country you will be visiting.
  • Research laws about your religion in your host country.

MISTI program managers will work closely with you to address your questions, help you navigate possible cultural challenges, and provide you with tips for thriving in a new country.

Researching your host country’s acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is important to gauge how you will be able to interact safely. In some countries, LGBTQ+ communities are openly embraced and welcomed. In others, the sentiment may be hostile and the government may have enacted laws criminalizing behavior, relationships, and even expressions of LBGTQ+ acceptance or existence. 

As you start thinking about a MISTI trip, consider:

  • What are the laws and cultural norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, including hate crime laws and laws of consent?
  • What LGBTQ+ resources are available in the country you are visiting?
  • Will you or can you be out? If so, are there safety concerns to consider? If not, how will this affect your day-to-day experience?
  • What are the social attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in the country you’re visiting?
  • Will you need medications, supplies, or services due to your transgender status? Are they available in the country you are visiting? If not, will you need any additional documentation to travel with medication or supplies?
  • Will you have access to gender-neutral bathrooms? If not, which bathroom can you use without getting into trouble?

As you start planning your trip, also think about the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with the LGBTQ+ customs, laws, culture and climate of the country.
  • Find support networks/communities in the area you will be staying.
  • Research current news in the country you will be visiting.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Learn cultural norms and terminology related to LGBTQ+ persons and relationships in the local language.
  • Speak with other LGBTQ+ MISTI students about their experiences abroad.
  • Ask your MISTI program manager for student or alumni contacts who are willing to share their experience.

MISTI would like to make sure you understand potential challenges and risks when going abroad so you can make the most informed decision for your own personal well-being. Please contact the MISTI DEI team at mistidei [at] (mistidei[at]mit[dot]edu) with any questions or concerns.

Being a first-generation student can sometimes be overwhelming—especially if you’re planning to go abroad outside of the regular academic year. As you begin to consider a MISTI experience, start to consider:

  • How will you express your interest, explain the process, and describe the benefits of going abroad to your family?
  • Will you need additional resources to help fund your program outside of what MISTI provides? Do you need funds to get a passport or pay for the visa?
  • Who can you check in with to make sure you’re on the right track during your planning process?

As you start planning your trip, also think about the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to talk to other students and program managers.
  • Decide your reasons for going abroad and the goals you’d like to accomplish.
  • Find out what resources are available to you and utilize them.
  • Research the country you’ll be visiting.
  • Create a planning timeline. Get help, if needed, to keep you on schedule.

MISTI program managers will work closely with you to address your financial concerns, help you plan for your travel, and provide you with examples of student success stories.

As an international student, the process of traveling to and living in another country can be both exciting and daunting. As you begin to consider a MISTI experience, start to consider:

  • Do you understand the visa process and your requirements? (Requirements vary depending on your citizenship and which country you’ll be visiting.)
  • Are you allowed to do a MISTI internship?
  • What do you need to do to maintain your current U.S. visa status?
  • Will you need a new U.S. visa to reenter the U.S. after your studies abroad? If yes, where should you apply, what kind of documentation will you need, how long will it take, and are there risks of not getting a visa to return to the U.S.?
  • Are there additional requirements for multi-destination programs or planned side trips?

As you start planning your trip, also think about the following:

  • Reach out to ISO as soon as possible and discuss your visa situation.
  • Start researching and planning as soon as possible. As an international student there are more requirements that can slow the process.
  • Determine when you will go abroad and what costs you’ll face.
  • Contact the nearest embassy or consulate and only look at direct government websites (.gov) to avoid scams.
  • Reach out to ISO again to make sure you have the proper paperwork to leave and reenter the U.S.

MISTI program managers will work closely with you to address your concerns and review visa, passport and insurance information.

Students in Brazil walking up a hill

Need Assistance?

MISTI’s DEI team is also available to offer advice and provide resources.

MIT Dome Daytime


You can also visit the MIT Institute Community & Equity Office (ICEO) website for a full list of programs, offices, staff, and other diversity resources at MIT.