Religious, Spiritual, and Non-Religious Students
The religion of a country is closely tied to its culture, often manifesting itself in laws, customs, writing, food, and communication. Navigating the belief system of your destination can help deepen your understanding and cultural experience abroad. Understanding the local religious customs may even be essential to navigating day-to-day life. Even if you are not religious yourself, these are still important elements of your host country identity to be aware of. For example certain stores or restaurants may have limited hours during certain religious holidays, or you may not be able to find certain foods in your host country at all.
Overall, students should aim to be respectful of the religious or non-religious practices of their host country. Observance of certain religiously embedded customs or laws may even be required by local law. Take some time to examine your own religious or non-religious identity, such as how to safely and respectfully avoid religious practices in which you don’t feel comfortable being involved, or which ceremonies and traditions are open for participants of any religious or non-religious background.
If you have religious practices such as dietary restrictions or accommodations that need to be made, please let your program coordinator know as soon as possible.
Questions to Consider
- Is it safe to wear religious symbols or to openly practice my religion in the country in which I wish to study?
- Will I be a part of the religious minority or majority?
- What is the tolerance of my host country to my religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
- Will I be able to find places of worship in my host country?
- Will I have to adjust the way I practice my belief system?
- What religious services are offered in my language?
- How can I respect the religion of my host country, even if I don’t practice that religion?
- What religious holidays occur during my stay? What will they entail?
- Will my religious dietary restrictions be accommodated in my host country?
- Will my host country’s religion dictate cultural norms regarding food?
- Will religious beliefs within my host country influence how people interact with me because of my identity?
- The Pluralism Project
- The International Religious Freedom Report from the U.S. Department of State describes the status of religious freedom in every country
- The University of Chicago has information on Religion and Spiritual Life Abroad
- Roman Catholic Churches with Mass in English