The first and possibly one of the most difficult steps in studying abroad is determining where you’ll go. You want a destination that will provide you with an enriching cultural experience, allow you to take the course work you’re looking for, ideally offer some unique classes you can’t take in your home university, and meet a variety of other needs. If you identify as LGBTQ+, you are also looking for a host city that will be accepting and offers additional resources that make you feel welcome in your new hometown.
The USAC staff abroad and in the Central Office supports all students regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. We’ll do anything in our power to make your study abroad as comfortable as possible. However, the beauty of study abroad is the ability to gain independence and to take charge in creating the study abroad experience that you’d like to have.
Knowing what to look for when looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly location can make students feel more comfortable and accepted while providing an out-and-proud study abroad experience.
#1: Speak with your Program Advisor
USAC advisors are available to answer any questions you have, LGBTQ+-related or anything else. Our Program Advisors work day in and day out with every student who studies abroad, and they know the program locations better than anyone else. They can answer any questions you have about the culture, how LGBTQ+ accepting the city is, on-site resources, and any other questions you may have.
#2. Check out the ILGA sexual orientation laws in the world map
Every year the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) releases a map that shows the sexual orientation laws of each country. You can see it below:
While the world and some countries are becoming more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals, some countries will stand out above others for offering “pro laws”, resources for students, and highly accepting social views.
Remember that laws do not always correlate to the social norm, so it’s always good to combine research on the laws with additional research on locals’ acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s widely accepted. And vice versa, just because something isn’t legal doesn’t mean locals aren’t accepting.
#3. Be aware of cultural differences beyond the laws
Doing research ahead of time on the program’s LBGTQ+ culture can help you determine how willing and comfortable you are to adapt to that country’s mindset and norms in regards to sexuality and gender.
One of the biggest draws of study abroad is the opportunity to learn and immerse yourself in a new culture. Learning and accepting the cultural sensitivities of your host country is critical to a successful study abroad experience. While you can choose to study abroad anywhere, know that not every country has the same stance towards sexuality and gender, and therefore, not every city will be equally safe, welcoming, and friendly. Doing your research can help you find the right location for you.
#4. Speak with alumni
There’s no better way to learn about a country than from someone who has been before. If you have a friend or know of an LGBTQ+ student who has been abroad before you, ask about their experience, challenges, and successes. Another great way to hear firsthand experiences from LGBTQ students abroad is to utilize social media. Some hashtags you can explore are #lgbtqtravelers #lgbtq[country]
The USAC office can also connect you with alumni to speak with, just reach out to your Program Advisor.
#5. Research on-site organizations and support
No matter which program location you choose, it can be beneficial to research and find active on-site LGBTQ+ organizations and support that you can connect with before you head abroad. From nonprofit organizations to on-campus clubs, advocacy groups, and youth organizations, you can start building your community before you even head overseas.
For some additional resources you can use during your program search check out the following:
|International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
|US Dept. of State
|LGBTI Travel Information
|Diversity Abroad Destination Guides
|NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group
USAC is dedicated to providing LGBTQ+ students with the resources, tools, and support they need to have a safe and impactful study abroad. If you have any questions about finding the best program for you, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an LGBTQ+ alumni who would like to help us provide more resources to students, shoot us an email, we’d love to hear from you!