Advice about seeking queer communities abroad

USAC Maastricht student shares her study abroad decision-making process

Being in an environment where you can be open with your identity is crucial to your mental and physical health. That said, when researching where to study abroad, some people may feel like there’s a limited number of places you can go.

In reality, there are actually quite a few places out there in the world where you can be yourself. Allies and supporters exist in many international communities and they accept people from all the queer spectrum: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirited, and asexual. Below is one student’s brief advice on choosing the right program as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

1. Decide how open you would like to be.

Maura Tyson from Goucher College specifically sought out a study abroad program that would allow her to be open about her identity. This required asking herself many tough questions.

“I knew before I began searching for a program, that it was necessary for me to study abroad in a country that was accepting of my identity and where I could truly express myself,” she said. “I knew I had to take into account how accepting of LGBTQ+ people they were in that country.”

2. Look for nations with a reputation for Pride festivals and LGBTQIA+ businesses.

The Netherlands was at the top of her list of destination countries. She found that there was an option to go to Maastricht through University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC).

“When I was looking at different programs in The Netherlands, it felt like a no-brainer with the country’s reputation of their pride festivals and gay bars,” Maura said. “During my time studying in Maastricht and visiting other Dutch cities like Amsterdam, it really felt like queerness was a normal part of life for the people there.”

3. Be selective of your new friends.

At home, the people around you can heavily impact your mood and outlook. Your study abroad experience is the same. Be choosy about who you hang out with.

“My biggest advice for all students thinking about studying abroad is to make friends while you’re abroad and be sure that those friends are exactly who you want to be spending all your time with,” Maura said. “Those friends are the people that will be exploring, traveling, and learning with you during your time abroad.”

Maura was lucky enough to find other queer students while she was abroad. This gave her a shoulder to lean on and, in return, people she could help lift up in times of need.

“I don’t think my study abroad experience would have been the same without them!”

For more travel tips and resources, visit the LGBTQIA+ Travel Accessibility page on usac.edu.