US Students Abroad

We have sought to identify strategies and resources to help advisors and administrators counsel international students and study abroad students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Colleagues from around the world have shared copies of flyers and advising resource materials. Our bibliography has been compiled over a number of years, and it is expanded regularly. The list of organizations and Web links is intended to facilitate access to additional resources and information.

Why Study Abroad?

From: Emory Study Abroad LGBTQ brochure

Study Abroad can be the most rewarding experience of your college education–both academically and personally:

  • Study your academic major from an international perspective
  • Participate in the increasing global interdependence of our economy & society
  • Understand the people and issues of the world from a broader perspective
  • Develop a greater sense of independence, adaptability, and self-confidence
  • Enhance your qualifications for graduate schools and/or employment

Before You Go

The following information includes important points for you to consider before departing for your study or work abroad experience. It is important to be aware that cultures vary in terms of what is considered appropriate behavior when interacting with someone from another society. Cultures also vary in terms of how sexual identities are defined and understood. Country-specific information on the following will be helpful to review:

Homestays/Housing

Often programs place students in home-stay or housing situations so that they may be more immersed in the local host culture. It is important that all students are aware of and consider the implications of being identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in the host-culture and how coming out might affect the host-family relationship.

Program Specific Information

While the study abroad office in the U.S. may be inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered perspectives, the in-country staff and faculty may represent another office and culture that will present a different climate. Depending on this climate, you may need to look outside of the office for support related to sexual identity issues or LGBT community information. Please see the resources section to locate resources in the city or country where you are studying.

Relationships

Before you leave the U.S., we encourage you to learn as much as possible about the culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation. Inform yourself of important safe sex practices. See the health section for further information.

Safety

Adapted from the International Educational Task Force on LGBTQ Concerns University of Minnesota (7/14/93) and Welcoming Gay Culture, by Anthony Ogden

As mentioned above, it is important for students to realize how behavioral signals that mean one thing in the U.S. may mean something completely different in the foreign culture. Depending on the situation, the consequences can be serious. Physical harassment, assault, and rape are issues that both women and men have to consider when interacting across cultures because of the chance of misinterpretations of behavior. Furthermore, the legal system in the country may not offer protection for the victim when issues of sexual orientation or other behavior is involved. You are encouraged to explore and research the cultural, legal, and social issues relevant to the country where you plan to study and travel.

While You’re Abroad

You will find that attitudes and tolerance toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues vary from country to country, and even within the US. Some countries are more welcoming and legally protective than the U.S., while others may be less accepting and more restrictive. All students need to be aware of the legal issues related to sexuality in other countries. LGBT students need information regarding the receptivity and social climate of the host country.

Take the time to learn about:

  • LGBTQ organizations and support resources
  • Laws of the host culture
  • Norms/styles of behavior in the host culture
  • LGBTQ media
  • General attitudes toward LGBTQ persons
  • Meeting places

Back in the U.S.

Before you return to the U.S. it is helpful to consider how your sexual orientation may affect your relationship with families and friends back home.