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Religion & Spirituality Abroad

The level of commitment to religious diversity and freedom can vary by country. It is important to research and understand the religious and spiritual beliefs of your host country. Spending time in a country where the major religion is different from your own can lead to a better understanding of your own notions of spirituality.

ASK

As part of your pre-departure preparations, ask these questions of yourself, your study abroad adviser, and your study abroad program.

  1. What do you know about the religion(s) of your host country and the role religion plays in society?
  2. What is the attitude of people in your host country towards other religions?
  3. How are religious holidays observed and celebrated? Will you want to participate?
  4. How will people perceive your religion? Is your religion legal in your host country?
  5. 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?
  6. Will your religion’s holidays be observed and celebrated in your host country? If not, how do you plan to observe holidays?
  7. Will your religious dietary restrictions be accommodated in your host country?
  8. 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?

Research

  • Be sure to look at the student evaluations for your program to find helpful information and advice from Northwestern students who have already studied abroad.
  • Look at international news sources like The Economist to get a sense of current political and societal issues in your host country.
  • On the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project explore religious change and its impact on societies around the world through areas such as, how religious beliefs and practices shape people’s social values and political attitudes, trends in religious affiliation, and comparisons of restrictions on the practice of religion.
  • Read news and commentary on religion worldwide through BBC Religion and Ethics.
  • On the CIA World Factbook website, look for your host country’s page and research the “People and Society” section, where you can find the religious breakdown of the country.

Discuss

Campus Resources:

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life: The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life works to promote spiritual growth and maturity at Northwestern University.

Religious and Spiritual Student Groups: Student-led religious and spiritual groups on campus.

International Resources:

The Pluralism Project: The Pluralism Project at Harvard University seeks to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity.

U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Information: The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country.

Religious and Spiritual Groups Abroad

For students searching for a particular religious or spiritual group abroad the following sites may prove helpful.

Agnostic/Atheist/Humanist

International Humanist and Ethical Union: IHEU is the world union of over a hundred Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries.

Secular Web: List of organizations, including a limited number of international student organizations.

Buddhism

World Buddhist Directory: Worldwide searchable database of Buddhist organizations.

Buddhist Centers and Organizations: List of Buddhist communities in 66 countries.

Christianity

Church Finder: Limited international church listings.

Christianity Today International: International network of Christian ministries.

Many denominations have their own church directories. Try searching for your denomination and your host country or city name.

Hinduism

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.

Islam

Islamic Finder: Directory of prayer times, Islamic organizations, and mosques worldwide.

Muslim Internet Directory: List of organizations and online resources worldwide.

Halal Restaurants & Stores: Directory of halal restaurants and stores worldwide.

Judaism

Jewish Virtual Library: List of synagogues worldwide.

Delegation of Jewish American Students: The mission of DoJAS is to provide American Jewish students studying abroad the resources, tools, and connections they need to meaningfully engage with the Jewish community and their Jewish identity.

World Union of Jewish Students: WUJS is an international umbrella organization comprised of 48 national independent Jewish Student Unions around the world.

Kosher Restaurants & Stores: Directory of over 3,410 kosher restaurants and stores in over 70 countries.