Relationships and Sexual Health

As you plan your study abroad experience, it’s important to think about your intentions for engaging in romantic and sexual relationships while abroad. On this page you will find information regarding:

Relationship Considerations


Sexual Health



Relationship Considerations

It’s really common for students to have relationships while they are studying abroad and there are four things you need to consider that will help you navigate your experience:

1. Cultural Differences 

Cultural differences can be confusing in a relationship. It’s important that you communicate clearly with your partner and this might mean repeating yourself or finding a new way to explain something. 

Expect that the norms and attitudes about relationships are going to be different than what you are used to and also expect that your partner may not recognize that you don’t understand these norms.

2. Expectations 

It is important that you are honest and clear about your expectations for a relationship and that you understand your partner’s expectations. 

3. Dating 

It’s important that you think about and understand what it means to accept invitations from people, for example, what does it really mean when you accept an invitation to meet someone for coffee – you may see this as a friendly outing but in some contexts the other person may think that you are dating. What does it really mean when you’re accepting an invitation to go on a date or to dance with someone when you’re out at a club? Accepting these invitations could mean that you consider yourself to be in a committed relationship with the other person. These activities can have very different meanings in different places. Do your background cultural investigating before you travel and ask a ton of questions to locals when you first arrive to prepare yourself.

4. Consent

In the US, we consider consent to be a universal right, it’s your body and you set your boundaries. You have a right to withdraw consent at any time. Before engaging in any sexual activity, there must be mutual and voluntary consent of all partners. This definition of consent related to sexual activity is not universal and in a different cultural context, expressed consent may not be required for engagement in a sexual activity or not required in the same way that you are used to. It’s important that you have considered your boundaries and your partners’ boundaries before engaging in sexual activity and that your communication and actions are open and respectful of those boundaries.




Contraception might not be available or as easily accessible in the country where you are studying abroad so it’s important that you take a supply with you. This could be condoms, birth control pills, or anything else that you think you might need. If it is available in the country where you are going, consider that it might be more challenging for you to access it and pack a small supply. Please also consider that cultural ideas surrounding contraception might be a lot different than what you’re used to and you may not feel as comfortable accessing contraceptives abroad.


sexual health

STI’s and STD’s are common worldwide. Some countries have higher rates of transmission for certain STI’s so you will want to educate yourself about this before you go abroad. The CDC offers a great resource on their website on STD’s and you can find the link in this module. Take action and inform yourself before you go abroad so that you have all of the knowledge that you need. If you have unprotected sex, get yourself tested. You will be able to locate information on how to do this through your health insurance.

Students abroad may be at a higher risk for contracting STD's than at home. It is important to inform yourself of the risks where you will be traveling. We recommend that you bring a supply of condoms with you as access and cultural norms may vary in the country you are studying. 

Take a look at this resources from the Center for Disease Control about Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Page last modified May 4, 2021