Thinking about Intersectionality

Hankivsky (2014) summarises intersectionality as follows:

Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (e.g., ‘race’/ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration status, religion). These interactions occur within a context of connected systems and structures of power (e.g., laws, policies, state governments and other political and economic unions, religious institutions, media). Through such processes, interdependent forms of privilege and oppression shaped by colonialism, imperialism, racism, homophobia, ableism and patriarchy are created.

For a short introduction to intersectionality see the following video by Kat Blaque:

Kimberlé Crenshaw speaks here about the Urgency of Intersectionality:

Intersectionality and Studying Abroad

I do think one must acknowledge that studying abroad is in many regards an elitist endeavor. Therefore, bringing intersectionality into play, we question the status quo of studying abroad and internationalization at large. The goal of this questioning is to make it more inclusive, so that the transformative exprience of studying abroad is accessible to all, directly or indirectly.

Focusing on students

Thinking about intersectionality should not be limited to just one aspect of the study abroad life cycle. That being said, we need to consider how thinking about intersectionality can have a direct impact on our students and how they view their study abroad experiences. For this reason it is very important to focus on two stages of the Study Abroad Life Cycle:

With both of these stages, one can implement activities that have a direct impact on students’ personal reflections and in so doing hopefully do the following:

Focusing on staff and institutional structures

The above activities are centered very much around students and inclusive internationalization can’t only be attained by the acts of students - it is very much also an institutional project. That is why there should be an intersectional dialectic (not sure if dialectic is the correct word here) between students and international education practitioners. Through their interaction with students, practitioners can identify those things that still fall short in terms of the internationalization processes of their respective institution and relay the feedback back into the institutions own processes. In the process students and practitioners think together.

Activities with Students

Pre-departure Orientation/Workshops

The aim with the following orientation workshop, was to do more then just a presentation. Although there is still a presentation, the focus of the workshop is on the activities done by the students.

Pre-departure Orientation Workshop Example

Here are some great resources and ideas for hosting an event or workshop

Reflective Writing

It is important for students to be able to reflective on and recount their experiences. Not just in terms of the practical components of the experience (for example, how to apply for a visa), but also in terms of how the experience has forced them to think differently about the world and themselves. Recounting it, also forces them to see the real value of the experience. Here are some examples:

Further Reading

de Wit, H. and Jones, E. (2018) ‘Inclusive Internationalization: Improving Access and Equity’, International Higher Education, 94, p. 16. doi: 10.6017/ihe.2018.0.10561.

Hankivsky, O. (2014) Intersectionality 101. The Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy, SFU. Available at:

Intersectionality 101: A Reading List - (no date). Available at:

Larson, E. et al. (2016) ‘10 Best resources on… intersectionality with an emphasis on low- and middle-income countries’, Health Policy and Planning, 31(8), pp. 964–969. doi:

Reframing internationalisation’s values and principles (1 March 2019) University World News. Available at: .

Rumbley, L.E.(2018) Innovative and Inclusive Internationalization. Boston: Center for International Higher Education. Available at:

Simpson, J. (2009) A Toolkit for Applying Intersectionality. Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women Available at: