Piropos and Friendships: Gender and Culture Clash in Study Abroad
Keywords:study abroad, study abroad experience, critical learning, women, gender roles
In this paper I will describe and focus on two ways in which being a woman affected students' study abroad experiences in Costa Rica: (l ) piropos, or unsolicited gender-oriented comments, and (2) women's friendships, their absence with women of the host culture, and the importance of friendships with other North American women. At least two other facets of the gender-study abroad relationship warrant attention but will not be dealt with here: gender and classroom experiences, and the different experiences of male and female students. First I briefly describe the University of Costa Rica, the status of women in Costa Rica, and the method employed in this study.
In this article, I argue that educators must ask not only how gender (and race/ethnicity) affects the study abroad experience, including attitudes toward the host country, but what study abroad programs can do to turn potentially negative experiences for women students into critical learning experiences. It is neither possible nor necessarily desirable to change the host country; however, we can help young women to understand how gender roles are constructed in other cultures and better prepare them to confront the differences.
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