While choosing an education abroad program, students who identify themselves as part of the LGTBIQ+ community may have unique questions and concerns as living abroad, even for a short period of time, will open up opportunities to think about their personal identity in a whole new context. They will have to think, again, how and when they will want to express their LGBTIQ+ identity.

Read student's testimonials!

If you identify as a member of the LGTBIQ+ community, you may be wondering… Is study abroad for me? Absolutely! There is most certainly a variety of places and programs all over the world where you can gain a meaningful experience both personal and professional, while studying abroad and embracing your personal identity.

As any student preparing to study abroad, you need to do some research. And some of that research needs to be focused on this part of your identity. Countries differ in their acceptance, awareness, and understanding of the LGTBIQ+ community; therefore, it is important for you to understand what type of environment you will be living in, and the kind of laws, policies, regulations, myths, beliefs, and organizations related to the LGTBIQ+ community exists in that location. It is also important to remember that U.S. laws will not protect U.S. citizens in another country.

The following list of suggestions and questions will guide you as you look at different education abroad opportunities:

  • Think about your personal and academic goals for your education abroad program. You might find a program that matches your academic goal, but you have reservations about how members of the LGTBIQ+ community are viewed in that location… Are you still willing to go there?
  • Research the country, institution and/or provider before you choose a program. These are some questions to keep in mind:
    • What are the laws regarding sexuality and gender identity in that country?
    • Is it safe for me to be out in that country?
    • What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
    • What kinds of LGTBIQ+ resources are there available in that country? Are those services free?
    • What resources are there available through the institution abroad or provider?
    • What is the LGTBIQ+ population like in that country? How visible and large is it? How do they dress, behave, etc.? How are they portrayed in the media?
    • How do police officers view LGTBIQ+ locals and visitors?
    • What is the social perception of LGTBIQ+ people in that country?
    • Can I be open about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends and host family in that country?
    • Can I think of situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation or gender identity in that country?
    • How will my social media, including past posts, be perceived by people in that country?
    • Are there any LGTBIQ+ friendly establishments in that city? How can I find them?
  • LGTBIQ+ populations are often misunderstood by others, so think about how comfortable you are with educating others and dispelling myths.
  • Will you have access to your medications or services to properly care for your needs, including those related to transitioning like hormones? Are they legally available in that country?  If not, will you need additional documentation to travel with your medications? Will it be possible to bring all you need with you?

You might not find all the answers for these questions, but you can start by doing some research based on that information. You can also contact the UWL Pride Center for resources or check these steps to get you abroad. To learn more about the education abroad process and programs offered at UWL, we encourage you to attend an Education Abroad 101 session, attend our Education Abroad Fair, and/or schedule an appointment with and Education Abroad Advisor. We are here for you!

Resources

Maps - Sexual Orientation Laws in the World

Transgender Europe - TGEU Maps

IES LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources

9 Major Life Lessons I learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT

12 Best Countries for LGBTIQ+ Study Abroad

Rainbow Special Interest Group of NAFSA

Finding an LGTBIQ+ Community Abroad

National Center for Transgender Equality

Student's Testimonials

Evan

Evan

Spain
Spanish Education
  • a trans masculine student
  • As a trans masculine student, I had many worries about studying abroad. But, as a Spanish Education major, I knew I would benefit tremendously from an experience like this. While I was studying in Spain, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to explore who I was as a person away from the life that I had growing up. Since I only recently transitioned, I had a lot of fears about traveling and studying abroad alone with a different perceived gender. As it turns out, studying in Spain was a great experience because people in Europe are very accepting, and in many ways, don't have as strict of gender norms and identities. When I introduced myself, people just accepted who I was. Even my host parents, who were of the older generation, didn’t mind and never misgendered me. It was an amazing opportunity to travel, explore who I was, and meet people who didn’t know me before, so I could be whoever I wanted to be. Studying abroad helped me improve my language and communication skills in Spanish, taught me about a different culture with unique values and morals, and helped me gain the confidence I needed to become a better version of myself and become comfortable with who I am now. I definitely encourage UWL students to visit International Education & Engagement to find out about all the education abroad opportunities offered at UWL!
Malcom

Malcom

France
Anthropology & Philosophy
  • A 1st generation, LGTBQ+, and Chicano-American student

  • I identify as an LGBTQ+ Chicano-American, first generation student at UWL. I have a double major in Anthropology and Philosophy with a minor in French. I decided to study abroad in the summer of 2019 because I thought it would be a wonderful experience I could grow and develop from. I was also awarded the Sara Sullivan LGTBQ Study Abroad Scholarship, which help me make my final decision. So, I studied in Caen, Normandie, a region in northern France that borders the English Channel. I was terrified to go because I had never left North America at that point in my life. I was afraid of what French people would think of me and if I would be able to communicate. Even more terrifying was the fact that I was going to stay with a French host family for my six weeks in France. I was delighted to find that the majority of French people I met really liked me and that most of them could understand me quite well. It was a huge compliment to be told by several French people that I spoke their language proficiently. I am incredibly proud of my experience abroad and would do it again in a heartbeat if I could. I miss my host family quite a lot and wish I could see them again. I highly recommend studying abroad to UWL student!

Gregory

Gregory

Germany
German Studies
  • I identify as an L(G)BT student
  • One of the main reasons I decided to study abroad was to get out of the Midwest where I have lived my entire life and meet other people in the LGBT community. From my experience, La Crosse is a very accepting place, but the gay community here seems practically non-existent. I chose to study abroad in Frankfurt because it is a large and progressive city. Frankfurt is where I finally found people that I could identify with and a strong community surrounding us. There is where I felt that I could fully be myself and not only felt accepted by everyone around me, but ultimately where I learned to accept myself for who I am. My time studying abroad was without a doubt the best time of my life and changed the way I look at the world, different people and cultures, and most importantly myself. I think that studying abroad should be mandatory for all students and I don’t see how anyone could study abroad and come back unchanged.