As an LGBTQ+ student, finding a study abroad program that fits your needs can feel overwhelming, but the planning doesn’t stop once you’ve applied for your perfect program. No matter how you identify, there’s a lot to consider when preparing for study abroad and a lot to do once you are on-site to keep you safe and happy. If you’re an LGBTQ+ student wondering how you can make study abroad work for you and your identity, keep on reading.
Do Your Research
It’s likely that you’ve typed some variation of, “LGBTQ+ friendly study abroad” into your search bar, and that’s a great start! You have hopefully already taken into consideration the attitudes, laws, and level of acceptance of the locals in your host country, but it’s time to take your research a step further. Now is the time to start compiling LGBTQ+ resources that you can utilize during your time abroad. Look for on-campus clubs and events, local Pride parades or festivals, and advocacy groups, and reach out to build connections before you head abroad. Not only will you feel confident upon arrival that you’re moving to a place that has support groups and resources if you need it, you’ll already have some connections to turn to once you arrive.
Decide How “Out” You Want To Be
This one is completely up to you, but we encourage you to consider how much of your identity you want to share with your study abroad cohort, USAC staff, and the local community. This answer is going to be different for every student and will depend on an infinite number of factors such as program location, parental and friend support, and personal acceptance or acknowledgment of one’s identity. Do some self-reflection before departure. You may be out, proud, and ready to shout it from any rooftop you find yourself on, or you might want to take things a little slower. Either choice (or anything in between) is perfectly valid and acceptable. Ask yourself what you need to feel confident, safe, and validated, and go from there.
Lean On Your USAC Staff
Whether you’re looking for on-campus clubs, searching for local LGBTQ+ resources, or just want someone to talk to about your identity or study abroad experience, we’ve got you covered. Your Resident Director (RD) and program staff are incredibly familiar with your host city and campus and can help point you in the right direction. They can also lend an ear if you just need to talk, but if you’re interested in speaking to a mental health professional, your RD can help you find one.
Additionally, if you experience discrimination or find yourself in an uncomfortable (or unsafe) situation while abroad, seek support from your RD or trusted USAC staff, including a member of our Central Office team. We can help you get the support you need.
Explore Your Identity And Embrace The Unknown
One of the best things about study abroad is that it allows students to truly live their best lives and embrace their identities without the influences or pressures they normally experience back home. Use study abroad as a chance to explore your identity and grow as an individual, no matter where you are in your personal journey, and embrace the idea that there is a whole world for you to explore (both physically and within yourself). Don’t shy away from the unknown; study abroad rarely goes perfectly according to plan, and you’ll likely love the unexpected and spontaneous moments that study abroad creates.
Join that LGBTQ+ student and ally group on campus, buy that last-minute train ticket for a weekend getaway, attend a Pride event, choose to room with someone you don’t know… leaning into the seemingly random, yet transformative moments that study abroad provides will impact your entire experience, and ultimately your personal identity, in a positive way.