There are many different factors for all students to think about when choosing a study-abroad program, and LGBTQIA+ students may have unique questions and concerns.* Living abroad may cause you to make decisions on how and when to express your LGBTQIA+ identity. It is helpful to think about what kind of support may be available to you in your new environment.
Is Study Abroad for You?
We think there is a study-abroad program for all students, but this question is one we ask all students to consider. Study abroad can satisfy degree requirements, and students often say that their time abroad was the most exciting time in college. While study abroad can be challenging, the experience can help you learn more about yourself and the world.
Issues and Concerns
Countries view gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in many ways. Some host cultures may be more welcoming and tolerant of LGBTQIA+ identities than in the United States, while others may have laws that criminalize homosexuality.
Gender norms vary from country to country as well, and it is important to conduct research prior to departure. Learn the laws of the host country regarding LGBTQIA+ issues, same-sex sexual behavior, and expressions of LGBTQIA+ identity and community. It is important to remember that United States laws will no longer protect you once you leave to go abroad. If same-sex acts are illegal in the host country and you are reported for engaging in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country. There are maps that include information on LGBTQIA+ rights around the world, which you can explore. Regardless of the laws of the host country, it is always important to research whether an environment is affirming to LGBTQIA+ people.
Other Things to Consider
Get to know your destination before you leave. Explore LGBTQIA+ travel guides and internet resources to get a better idea of social norms and customs of the host country. And, make a safety plan to prepare for all situations that could occur.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, The Qube, and/or your Study Abroad Advisor when choosing a study-abroad program:
- What are the local cultural attitudes towards Americans, tourists, and sexual orientation and gender identity in the host country?
- What are the attitudes of the police towards gender expression, trans individuals, and LGBTQIA+ visitors overall?
- What are the social perceptions of LGBTQIA+ people in the host country?
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family members, and others?
- The LGBTQIA+ population is often misunderstood by others, so to what degree am I comfortable with educating others and dispelling myths?
- Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation?
- How will my social media usage, including past posts, be perceived by people in the host country?
- How important is it to me to find other students and friends who share my identity while abroad? How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, locals, or community organizations?
- Are there LGBTQIA+ friendly establishments nearby? How can I find them?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition (e.g., hormones)? Are they available in the host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies? Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies?
Please contact The Qube or the Office of International Education to see if there are past participants who have agreed to speak about their experiences abroad.
- Amnesty International - Human rights
- Department of State - LGBT travel information
- Equaldex – Collaborative knowledge base of LGBT rights around the world
- GayGuide - A worldwide directory to help gay locals and tourists find places to stay and to go
- Global Gayz - An online journal documenting the travels of LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world
- International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association - A worldwide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTI people everywhere
- NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Rainbow Special Interest Group - A website maintained by the University of Indiana and international educators who specialize in LGBT issues
- National Center for Transgender Equality - Social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment
- Spartacus World’s Gay Travel Index – Ranking of all countries in terms of LGBT travel friendliness
*This page was prepared in collaboration with The Qube, UW-Stout's headquarters for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic, and more (LGBTQIA+) students and allies. The Study Abroad Team wishes to express its gratitude for the collaboration, input, and support.