What can a study abroad office do?

Kathleen Sideli, Indiana University

  1. Have a diversity statement in your promotional materials so that GLB students know that your office is a safe and inclusive place. 
  2. If you have a GLB center on campus, make their flyers visibly available in your office as a subtle message that your office is gay-friendly’. Other types of material work as well (i.e. a safe-zone sticker, a rainbow flag or sticker, NAMES Project poster, etc.). 
  3. If you have program handbooks, include a reference regarding diversity issues; among them, sexual orientation. This could be something as brief as recommending that the students discuss with your office here or abroad their questions or concerns regarding local resources, support groups, etc. 
  4. Acquire and make available bibliography and/or other materials (guidebooks, articles, etc.) about GLB students overseas. 
  5. Collect information about homosexuality in the country where your program is located. One possibility is to do a survey of your returnees, asking students to describe the reaction of their host country to homosexuality and the availability of support groups and resources there. You may wish to guide them to reference texts which have a country-by-country listing of laws, guidelines, etc. for GLB individuals. 
  6. When orienting directors, be sure to mention the probability of GLB students on the program so that they are prepared if they are consulted either by those students or others on the program who may have questions about the GLB students who have come out to them. If you maintain an office abroad, be sure that there are resources available on site. 
  7. While orienting students, provide some information regarding sexual orientation. Some institutions have an orientation specifically for GLB students, including GLB returnees, but that, by design, requires that the student self disclose. If you’re more comfortable with universal orientations, mention GLB issues in some capacity so that those students feel included. (i.e. “While we’re not here to tell you how to handle your personal relationships abroad, be sure that you are somewhat informed about various mores of the country where you’re going regarding heterosexual or homosexual relationships.”) Some institutions do a special women’s issues’ orientation; if you do, make mention of lesbians as you cover the topics. 
  8. If you have student-written newsletters, be sure that one of the categories is ‘Diversity’ so that students on-site can address this topic for future program participants. 
  9. Always include information on AIDS for all students going abroad. Although AIDS does not discriminate among populations, it may still be considered a predominantly gay disease in certain countries. The young population which is sexually active, GLB or straight, is now the highest risk group. Make sure they all know that they cannot leave worries about AIDS here in the US. If anything, students may find AIDS prevention less addressed abroad or of little concern to the general population. Distribute AIDS flyers specifically aimed at international travel (CIEE’s or your own); advise them to take condoms with them since they may be uncomfortable asking for them in another language. 
  10. Provide lists of Web resource sites.