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Identities Abroad: Religion & Spirituality

Identities Abroad: Religion & Spirituality

Whether or not you identify with religious or spiritual beliefs or practices, religion plays an important role in shaping cultures and societies. Conflicts surrounding your religious and or spiritual beliefs may arise while traveling abroad, whether internal or external. It is crucial to have a strong support system when dealing with these conflicts. We have compiled resources for students who may need advice around expressing their religious and or spiritual identity abroad.

Questions to Consider

  • Is there a dominant religion in my host country? How does religion manifest in everyday life?
  • Will I be part of the religious majority or minority abroad? How will I respect the dominant religion in the country?
  • How tolerant of other religions is the host society? Is there tolerance for atheists and agnostics?
  • Is it safe for me to wear religious symbols or clothing?
  • Is it realistic for me to continue to practice my religion abroad in the same way I practice it at home or on campus? Are there any adjustments I am willing to make? What aspects of my religious practice am I able or unable to be flexible about?
  • Are there places of worship or private spaces on campus/site or near my place of residence? Are there faith communities that represent my religion in the area? How will I practice my faith if I am unable to attend services or interact directly with my faith community in the host country?
  • Do I have religious dietary restrictions? If so, will they be easily accommodated in the host country? If not, how will I deal with this?
  • Is religiosity the norm or the exception in my host country?
  • If doing macro-level work, will a different religious affiliation (or lack thereof) impact my ability to bond with communities?
  • Will hiding my religion impact my mental health?


  • Do your research. Are there any laws regarding religion in your host country? You may need to consider whether there is a separation of religion and government and whether any behaviors you normally engage in (such as drinking or smoking) are penalized under religious law.
  • Consider how religion will impact your work. Check if your host organization has any policies regarding religion and spirituality. Will you be allowed to mention it around co-workers in this environment, especially if they identify with a different religion? Will you be permitted and safe to use religious or spirituality-informed strategies in your social work practice?
  • Check religious observances. If you are religious, see if you will have any religious obligations you must fulfill while abroad to ensure you can plan your global social work experience around it. Second, check if your host country's dominant religion observes any religious holidays. How will these holidays affect your daily routine or your research project, if applicable?
  • Be respectful. Keep in mind that different places have varying attitudes toward religious tourism. For instance, what is the etiquette for visiting temples, mosques, or churches? Think about how you should respectfully visit religious places of worship to learn about your host country's culture.


  • The Pluralism Project seeks to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity.
  • The Peace Corps website has thousands of stories detailing Peace Corps Volunteers' experiences. Use the search feature to find stories specifically about religion: Peace Corps Stories
  • Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) about hiding their faith during their service: "A Secret Jew in Jordan"
  • For resources on navigating international travel with religious dietary needs, see our Additional Considerations page.

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