Religion is one of those things that many Americans practice but don’t always understand or talk about. Nonetheless, your religion may influence where you’d like to study abroad. You may want to learn more about your own religion or you may want to learn about another. I call myself a Christian, but I lived with an African Muslim family while training with the Peace Corps. At first, I was shaken because of the differences in our religious views. However, I grew to love my homestay family, and became best of friends with their daughter.
Living with and befriending a family with a very different religious orientation was no cakewalk, but it was a growing experience. We exchanged much dialog around religion and I questioned both their religious views and mine. More importantly, I found answers. In the end, their commitment to Allah deepened my faith in Jesus Christ. Even though they are still Muslim and I am still Christian, I am better because of them. Instead of following after the masses, I went off the beaten path and found my own version of truth.
More than being exposed to various religions, you can also study them around the world. Europe and the Middle East are often considered a goldmine of religious relics and can be a wonderful place to learn and undertake study/research. There are several study abroad programs that specialize in religious studies. Studying your religion in its birthplace or its early stages of evolution can be an eye-opening experience. Also, studying other religions can help you understand people from a new perspective. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being a college professor or using your knowledge in other ways.
Finally, if you are religious, then you should investigate the acceptance of your religion in the country you wish to visit. Some countries don’t tolerate the beliefs and/or practices of certain religions, and it would be best for you to either not go to one of those countries and/or not exhibit your beliefs while you’re there. This is a tough decision that only you can make, based on what you hope to get out of your experience. The most popular destinations are normally tolerant of different religions and beliefs, although one may dominate the culture.
Religion & Ethics – An Encyclopedia of world religions.
Sacred Text Archive – Claims to be the largest freely available archive of online books about religion, mythology, and folklore on the Internet.
Wikipedia Religious Intolerance – A nice article on religious intolerance with the ability to look up discrimination/persecution by victimized group.
World Religions Index – The objective of this site is to give Christians an understanding of other faiths and religious philosophies.