Where to Study Abroad as an LGBT Student?

by Elsa Thomasma

Choosing your destination for study abroad may just be one of the hardest and most important parts of the process. For LGBT students contemplating study abroad, choosing a location can present slightly different concerns, and prove to be even more influential determinant of study abroad success.

Every country varies in its acceptance, awareness, and understanding of the LGBT community, and it is important for LGBT students to understand what type of environment they will be walking in to. The types of laws, policies, and organizations present in any country are huge factors in determining its social environment, so these are all things LGBT students should consider before studying abroad.

Dordrecht City, the Netherlands

Dordrecht City, the Netherlands

Although the world varies in acceptance of the LGBT community as a whole, there are a large number of countries around the world that offer students a safe, LGBT-friendly environment for study abroad. The following is a list of the most LGBT-friendly countries for study abroad in the world:

The Netherlands

Recognized globally for its progressive laws and an infamous nightlife in its most well known city, Amsterdam, it is no surprise that the Netherlands is also an open-minded place when it comes to LGBT study abroad. The Netherlands was the very first country to legalize same-sex marriage, back in 2000, so LGBT acceptance, rights organizations, and policies are no new thing for the Dutch. A true pioneer for LGBT rights, LGBT students who want to truly relish in the nation’s LGBT community should not miss Gay Pride Week in Amsterdam.


Even with an overwhelming majority of citizens possessing strong Catholic beliefs, when it comes to same-sex marriage and other policies that support the LGBT community, Argentina is definitely near the top of the list. Since legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010, the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, has become a welcoming destination for LGBT student from all over the world.


Although the exact term “same-sex marriage” wasn’t legalized in Sweden until 2009, civil unions for same-sex couples have been possible for almost 20 years. Sweden is no stranger to civil rights laws for the LGBT community. The Swedish people are sociable by nature, making Sweden an even more LGBT-friendly destination for study abroad. It seems the only deterrent from studying abroad in Sweden may be its high cost of living.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada


A nation packed with immense diversity, Canada has become a nation that welcomes individuals with all beliefs, practices, and ways of life.  Far ahead of its southern neighbor, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003 in Canada, a testament to the longevity of the nation’s acceptance of the LGBT community. Canada is also in favor of anti-gay laws and policies to help further protect its citizens, and visitors, which include LGBT study abroad students, making it a very safe place to study abroad. They even enacted anti-discrimination laws to support LGBT individuals as far back as the mid-90s!


Viewed as one of the most progressive countries in all of Europe, Belgium has led the pack when it comes to LGBT legal rights, and continues to do so. Being out in Belgium is not something to be afraid of, especially in Brussels, where there are signs of the nation’s LGBT acceptance on nearly every street. Also, for LGBT students considering turning their study abroad experience into an international career, Belgium is an incredible place to work abroad, and there are even anti-employment discrimination laws in place to make sure sexual orientation is never factored into employment decisions.


With pride parades that may just be the most popular and largest in the world, Spain has made a name for itself in the LGBT world for years. Although the majority of Spanish citizens are Catholic, same-sex marriage was legalized in Spain in 2005, making it only the third country in the world to enact a nationwide law favoring same-sex marriage. Spain continues to play a central role in the global LGBT community and Madrid will even play host to the World Gay Pride event in 2017.

Kalvag, Norway

Kalvag, Norway


Well known for its social policies and high standard of living, Norway is lesser known for its support of the LGBT community, but that does not mean it is any less important to the Norwegian people. Norway has played a large role in international debates regarding the decriminalization of homosexuality, pushing to increase acceptance of the LGBT community worldwide and encouraging a higher quality of life.


Definitely not the most commonly thought of country for study abroad, but one that is more than worth looking into, especially for LGBT students. Recognized as a very secular nation in comparison to its neighbors throughout Latin America, Uruguay was also the second country in the region to officially legalize same-sex marriage. Surprisingly stable economically, Uruguay is a great place for LGBT students who want to expand their Spanish language skills, but aren’t quite ready to be fully immersed in the developing side of Latin America. Oh, and did we forget to mention how affordable it is?


Having recently passed a national same-sex marriage law that was greeted with celebrations across the country, and of course many, many marriage ceremonies, Ireland is clearly on its way to more LGBT- friendly laws and policies. As an English-speaking nation, Ireland is one of the top destinations for study abroad in the world.


Only the second country in all of South America to legalize same-sex marriage, Brazil is yet another great place for LGBT students to study abroad in. When it comes to selecting a city, Rio de Janeiro is ideal for international LGBT students, as the city is home to a range of gay and lesbian events and groups; but, Sao Paulo still supposedly holds the title for largest pride celebration in the world. Outside of these two major cities, LGBT students may find acceptance varies, so choosing Rio or Sao Paulo will ensure the most successful study abroad experience in Brazil.

Denmark Harbor

Denmark Harbor


As far back as 1989, Denmark was beginning reform to support gay and lesbian couples, when the nation passed a law that allowed same-sex couples to register legally as domestic partners. The Danish clearly have a long-standing understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community, with a number of LGBT establishments specifically doting its capital city of Copenhagen. Denmark, therefore, welcomes LGBT students to participate in a variety of study abroad programs.


England’s LGBT community is beyond thriving. Known globally for its LGBT scene, especially in its capital city of London, LGBT students will never feel bored or out of place while studying abroad in England. In terms of LGBT rights, the British government has also never been shy about expressing its progressive stance and support of LGBT rights.

Want to know more about study abroad as an LGBT Student?

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