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L-R Emily Durham, Special Events Co-ordinator of the Penn Abroad Office, Nicole Riley, Assistant Director of East Asian Studies, and Shaina Adams El-Guabel, Program and Outreach Co-ordinator of Penn Women's Center, facilitating role-play scenarios when abroad at the "Women Abroad: A Traveler's Toolkit" workshop.

Keeping in line with national trends, Penn women who study abroad typically outnumber men by a ratio of two to one. But there was an unprecedented increase in attendance at Wednesday’s “Women Abroad: A Traveler’s Toolkit” workshop.

Organized by Penn Abroad and the Penn Women’s Center, the workshop, held every semester, aims to prepare women for a safe and enriching experience abroad.

Program and Outreach Coordinator for PWC Shaina Adams-El Guabi said the center typically receives four to five students for the workshop. Wednesday, 21 women attended. Most had plans to study or embark on internships in countries like Australia, Chile, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Adams-El Guabi attributed the increase to a concerted effort to reach more diverse students. “We wanted to reach students going overseas to volunteer, not just study,” she said.

At the workshop, facilitators discussed confidence-building and maintaining work-life balance and sexual health.

Becky Altman, a Nursing graduate student, urged students to plan for their sexual health and needs beforehand.

“It’s going to be difficult to use Nuvaring if you’re going to sub-Saharan Africa,” she said, referring to a form of birth control which has to be refrigerated before use.

Facilitators advised participants to plan the mode and frequency of communication with their loved ones, and to determine what emotional and physical boundaries they are comfortable with before they leave.

Students also underestimate the importance of dressing appropriately while abroad. Assistant Director at the Center for East Asian Studies Nicole Riley said women should follow general cultural norms as a rule of thumb.

“No one has ever dressed so conservatively that they offended someone,” she said.

College senior Samantha Lammie, who has worked in Guatemala and studied in Chile and France, shared her experiences with fellow students.

“While in France, I experienced a couple of situations where I may have felt unsafe while taking public transport,” she said. “But perhaps the hardest thing was really juggling my workload,” said the pre-med student, who is majoring in Romance Languages.

She encouraged students to talk to other women familiar with a country to get a feel for its culture.

Penn Abroad reported that for the past four years, 61 percent of the more than 800 students who go abroad are women. Similarly, Penn Summer Abroad reported that 138 female students so far are planning to participate in summer programs this year, making up 68 percent of the accepted students to date.

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