Student Support

SIT Study Abroad operates from a position of inclusion as it relates to student diversity and support. Student health and wellbeing are paramount to a student having a successful study abroad experience. SIT Study Abroad programs are dynamic and exciting and may at times be physically and mentally challenging. Student preparation and realistic expectations combined with the resources and services provided by Student Affairs are keys to a successful semester.

  • Preparation and Expectations
  • Diversity
  • Special Dietary Needs
  • Dietary Preferences
  • LGBTQ Support
  • Religion / Spirituality
  • Mental Health
  • Disability Accommodations

Preparation and Expectations
Student support begins well before the program starts through student preparation and by setting realistic expectations. Things for a student to consider include questions about academic resources, social customs in the program location, and dietary or other health needs.

It is important for students to remember that many of the locations where SIT operates programs do not have the same infrastructure, resources, or technology available in the US. Some resources may be available at certain points during a program, but not, for example, in rural areas or while the program is on excursion. Students should carefully read pre-departure materials and contact SIT as early as possible with questions in order to ensure that SIT clearly understands a student’s individual needs. SIT will then do its best to communicate to the student the available program resources on that program.

Diversity
Throughout an SIT program, students must relate not only to the host community but also to the SIT group. Students bring diversity of all sorts to the program and may be confronted with different attitudes toward gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and socioeconomic class. SIT Study Abroad program staff provide opportunities to discuss these issues and encourage students to seek support whenever necessary, as these can be some of the most important learning moments in the study abroad experience.

Special Dietary Needs
Students with special dietary needs have been accommodated on many programs, including those with peanut allergies, celiac disease, and/or diabetes. Even with the same diagnosed medical condition, student needs vary, and some programs may not be able to accommodate some dietary needs. SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate student needs whenever possible.

Dietary Preferences
Many students who participate in an SIT Study Abroad program have dietary preferences, such as vegetarianism and veganism, unrelated to a medical condition. Sticking to a specific diet abroad can be a challenge depending on the program location. In general, one should remember that it is the responsibility of the student to adapt to the culture they are in and to be prepared to remain flexible in many ways, including in relation to dietary preferences.

In many instances, when with the group, on excursions, or when eating on one's own, students find it is possible to follow a specific diet. However, when living with homestay families, it is often difficult to adhere to that diet, for example, remain a strict vegetarian. Examples of accommodations students have had to make include eating vegetables cooked in the same pot with meat, and taking meat on one's plate as a display of respect.

LGBTQ Support
Within every culture and country, there are a variety of realities as they relate to sexuality. If you self-identify within the LGBTQ community, we encourage you to be in contact with SIT Study Abroad staff about the in-country realities for your program of choice. Safety and security are the top priority, and in some countries homosexuality may be illegal. It is important to understand the realities on the ground and to prepare for the challenges that may be part of the study abroad experience. While students may be limited in their self-expression in a particular culture, the SIT Study Abroad program is a safe space for students to seek support. Academic directors have all been trained in diversity issues, and students should feel that they can discuss any questions, challenges, or thoughts with the academic director. Resources are available prior to the program, and SIT staff in Brattleboro welcome any questions or concerns.

Religion / Spirituality
SIT Study Abroad operates in countries that have varying degrees of religious diversity and religious freedom.  While abroad, you may have encounters that challenge your notions of spirituality.

SIT Study Abroad staff is committed to helping students of all religious and spiritual traditions  identify religious / spiritual services during their experience abroad, where available. SIT also recommends that students familiarize themselves with common attitudes and perspectives in their country of study before the program commences to determine local customs and norms. Students should make any requests for accommodations to SIT staff as early as possible.

One resource to help in determining country norms is the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.

Mental Health
SIT Study Abroad programs offer exciting academic and personal challenges, including the experience of adapting to another culture. The cultural adjustment process requires psychological flexibility in the face of different customs, beliefs, and living conditions. These new situations may trigger “culture shock” while studying abroad, marked by symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, homesickness, and difficulties eating and sleeping, to name a few. Students who are currently managing a mental health condition are encouraged to discuss any concerns with their health professional and/or the Student Affairs staff at SIT Study Abroad. SIT’s medical review process is designed to support students in making the safest and most reasonable choices regarding their mental health; full disclosure on health forms is required to aid in this process.

Cultural views on mental health vary greatly around the world, as do the types of resources that are available. Some countries have a broad range of services, including access to Western-trained providers, while others have more limited options. SIT has identified counseling resources in-country, where available. However, students can best prepare for a positive study abroad experience by developing a set of healthy coping strategies that they can utilize while on the program.

Disability Accommodation
Please see SIT’s page on disability accommodation.