Religion and Spirituality Abroad
Whether you identify as someone who is agnostic, spiritual, religious, or nonreligious, religion plays an important role in shaping societies, cultures, and individual identities.
This is true in the United States and in the communities you will visit during your education abroad experience. Countries and communities often are shaped by multiple cultures and religious identities. Taking the time to talk to individuals, visit houses of worship, and learn about the interaction between religion, society, and culture will deepen your cultural understanding of your host country and enrich your education abroad experience.
Your study abroad experience also can be spiritually enriching. Just because you have left Babson and your spiritual or religious community behind, does not mean that you have to stop practicing your religion, exploring faith, or pursuing spiritual growth. For some of you, this may be your first experience as a religious minority or as a member of the religious majority. For others, you may be surprised by the similarities or differences between your religious practices at home and in your host country. Looking back on their time abroad, many students reflect on it being one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences in shaping their faith and religious identity.
Preparing to Go Abroad
As part of your pre-departure preparations, ask these questions of yourself, your Education Abroad advisor or Electives Abroad program manager, and your education abroad program:
- What do you know about the religion(s) of your host country and the role religion plays in society? What biases (conscious or unconscious) might you hold toward the religion(s) of your host country?
- What is the attitude of people in your host country toward other religions?
- How are religious holidays observed and celebrated? Will you want to or be willing to participate even if this religion is different from your own?
- How will people perceive your religion? Is your religion legal in your host country?
- Will you have access to your religion’s places of worship or religious groups? If not, how will you adjust your religious practice while abroad?
- Will your religion’s holidays be observed and celebrated in your host country? If not, how do you plan to observe holidays?
- Will your religious dietary restrictions be accommodated in your host country?
- If you plan to live in a homestay while abroad, are you open to living in a homestay with a similar or diverse religious background from yourself?
Tips for Engaging in a New Religious Environment
You may find yourself in a religious environment different than your own. Here are some tips for making the most of your education abroad experience:
- Ask questions and suspend initial judgment.
- Use the local religion as a lens to the local culture.
- Attend a local worship service or visit a faith community as these can give you a deeper insight into the local community (even if you do not feel religious affiliation).
- Get to know someone of a different faith and learn more about them, their culture, and their faith.
- Know the local laws in regard to religion and especially as this relates to anything that may appear to be proselytizing.
- Demonstrate respect by wearing appropriate attire and showing proper respect to icons, etc. If you do not know what is appropriate, just ask.
- Use storytelling as a tool.
Tips for Spiritual Growth and Practicing Your Religion Abroad
Just because you have left your Babson community does not mean you cannot practice your religion or grow spiritually while abroad. Here are some helpful tips:
- Find those who are a part of your desired faith community and meet with them regularly. Check out resources below or contact program alumni. It’s also a great way to make local friends and learn the language.
- Practice your spiritual disciplines individually and/or in community e.g. journaling, meditation, prayer, fasting, etc.
- Attend local worship services, even if you do not know the language.
- Stay in touch with your Babson or home faith community.
- Participate in religious pilgrimages and retreats.
Babson Campus Resources
Connect with the Office of Faith and Service, one of the college chaplains, or a religious student group:
Specific Religious Resources
For students interested in learning about a specific religion or connecting with a particular religious or faith group abroad, the following sites may prove helpful:
- International Humanist and Ethical Union: IHEU is the world union of more than 100 Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist, and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries. You can search their membership list for members near your education abroad location.
- Secular Web: List of opportunities to connect with student organizations around the world.
- Bahai.org: Directory of more than 100,000 localities in virtually every country and territory around the world.
- Cru: Cru (Babson’s undergraduate Christian ministry) has chapters in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia-Oceania, and Europe. Check out also Cru Study Abroad.
- International Fellowship of Evangelical Students: The IFES (the umbrella organization for InterVarsity, Babson’s graduate Christian ministry) has active student groups in 160 countries and is a great place to find small group Bible studies, large group meetings, outreach events, and getaways. Check out also InterVarsity Study Abroad.
- Your Denomination: Many denominations have their own church directories. Try searching for your denomination and your host country or city name.
- Hindu Temples Worldwide: Details of various Hindu temples in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, Europe, UK, and the Caribbean.
- All Hindu Temples: Hindu temple directory in more than 50 countries.
- KAHAL: KAHAL aspires to give the tens of thousands of Jewish students studying abroad each year the resources, tools, and connections they need to meaningfully engage with the Jewish community and deepen their Jewish identity during one of the most important, meaningful, and enduring experiences of their lives.
- Jewish Virtual Library: List of synagogues worldwide.
- World Union of Jewish Students: WUJS is the international, pluralistic, nonpartisan umbrella organization supporting national independent Jewish student associations around the world.
- Kosher Restaurants and Stores: Directory of more than 3,410 kosher restaurants and stores in over 70 countries.
- Diversity Abroad: Religion Diversity Abroad provides some questions to think about before you travel abroad and some tips for dealing with religious challenges while you are abroad.
- Religious Freedom Information Provided by the U.S. Department of State. It provides information about international religious freedom and includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide.
- The Pluralism Project The mission of the Pluralism Project is to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources. The site offers extensive information on world religions and focuses on the meaning of religious pluralism.