SFS was founded with the belief that stewardship of our planet requires leadership from a diverse array of people around the world. We believe that addressing complex global issues needs to involve the scientific community, as well as informed and committed individuals from many backgrounds.
SFS strives to cultivate a diverse community, beginning with diverse student cohorts and inclusive programs which support every student from the time they apply to when they return from the field and beyond. We value the inclusion of all students, including those who identify as a racial or ethnic minority, members of the LGBTQ+ community, first-generation college students, and students from all underserved areas.
SFS encourages students of all backgrounds to study abroad.
During program orientation, SFS staff provide students with information on the local community and culture, including local attitudes toward different beliefs, values, and lifestyles. Students should recognize that, while on-program, they may be challenged by vastly different beliefs and boundaries than they are used to in their home communities.
We encourage students to contact SFS with country-specific questions or if they’d like to discuss their identity abroad. Students may reach out to SFS Admissions or SFS Safety & Student Life for advising.
As you prepare to study with SFS, please ask yourself the following questions to explore your personal identity and how that will impact your time abroad.
What is your identity? How do you describe yourself? Maybe as a runner, vegan, Muslim, black, white, feminist, or environmentalist—think about the aspects of your life that you consider most important and defining.
How might aspects of your identity change or evolve while you’re abroad? What might become more or less important, more or less defining, in the context of a new country and culture?
What are the attitudes toward someone with your identity in the country you plan to travel to?
All countries and communities have cultural values and societal norms that are woven into the fabric of their collective identities. These norms and values are important to these communities whether we agree with them or not. If an aspect of your identity is not accepted in the culture you plan to spend time in, are you okay with that? How will you adjust and cope?
For students who identify as racial or ethnic minorities, studying abroad can prove to be an experience that can be both rewarding and challenging. Racial and ethnic norms can vary across countries, regions, and even local communities. Some students have reported that these norms have given them an opportunity to think about their identity in a new cultural context, while other students have experienced feeling familiar or new types of discrimination. While the impact of these norms on each individual will certainly differ, understanding the minority, majority, and plurality racial and ethnic composition of the host country, the history of racial and ethnic conflicts, and how someone of a different background may be perceived, is important in preparing oneself for situations they may encounter with respect to their identity.
SFS is here to support students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university to attain a bachelor’s degree. We have many resources to help our students fund, plan, and prepare for their study abroad experience, and to help students communicate the importance of study abroad as part of a college career to friends and family.
SFS welcomes members of the LGBTQ+ community. While we work diligently to provide an open and safe space on our program campuses, we do ask all students to understand and respect that sexual orientation and identity may be viewed differently within the local community where they are living and studying. Please be aware that country- or region-specific laws or culture may limit individual self-expression while in the local community. Please contact the Safety and Student Life Department for more information on housing and local community views across our program countries.
Students requesting physical and health accommodations should contact the SFS Safety and Student Life Department. Students requesting learning accommodations should contact the SFS Office of Academic Affairs. SFS will work with students, home schools, and physicians to determine the required level of accommodation and whether or not it can be safely and reasonably maintained on program. While SFS strives to make accommodations for most disabilities, due to the remote nature of our programs, there are varying levels of accessibility, services, and accommodations at each SFS Center.
SFS strives to support students in their religious observance and expression while on-program. It is important for students to research the religious traditions of the host country they plan to travel to, as well as what the local attitudes toward other religions might be. Due to the structured nature of SFS programs and our remote locations around the world, it may not be feasible to accommodate certain observances, dietary needs, and practices.
SFS seeks to broaden and strengthen the participation of traditionally underrepresented minority students in all of its programs. Creating an inclusive and diverse student body is of utmost importance.
The SFS Diversity Scholarship is one of the ways we broaden the participation of underrepresented groups of students in study abroad. For SFS, underrepresented groups include, but are not limited to, students who identify with a certain race, sex, color, religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age, marital status, national origin or ancestry, ethnic origin, or veteran status. Underrepresented groups also include first-generation college students and students from low-income families. In order to be considered for the need-based Diversity Scholarship, please attach a personal statement to your SFS Financial Aid Application to explain how your participation in an SFS program would broaden the diversity of the program.
Northwestern University has compiled a very comprehensive guide for students to help them research and ask questions about how their identity will impact their time abroad. We encourage you to use their website!