Studying abroad can be a defining moment in any student’s educational journey, one filled with opportunities for growth, numerous realizations, and many more meaningful experiences. For LGBT students, studying abroad can be not only an incredible powerful educational experience, it can also be an opportunity to expand understanding, awareness, and acceptance of the LGBT community globally.
Every student deserves the chance to study abroad alongside their peers and experience all the world has to offer, and these are just a few of the key points every LGBT student contemplating study abroad should consider:
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
When selecting a destination for study abroad, it is essential that LGBT students research the culture of their host country. All study abroad students are expected to have the ability to be culturally sensitive, or to learn how to be during their orientation and time abroad. The best way to get a head start on how to be sensitive to your host country’s culture is by reading up about it before departure.
LGBT students should spend significant time reading about the overall attitudes that local people have toward LGBT persons and get to know any general cultural norms that may impact their behavioral choices while studying abroad. This type of cultural research is especially important for LGBT students who choose study abroad programs that entail homestay accommodations.
Know Your Host Country's Stance
In the same way that cultural knowledge is essential to LGBT students’ study abroad experience, background on the history of LGBT rights and acceptance, as well as current laws and policies, will be incredibly beneficial information to have on hand. LGBT students can choose to study abroad anywhere in the world, but that does not mean that every country will be equally safe, welcoming, and friendly.
Students should do their research, and then decide if they are ready to deal with the challenges their dream destination may pose for them on a daily basis. Alternatively, some LGBT students may choose to study abroad in countries that are more LGBT-friendly than their own home country, to experience a more open-minded and accepting environment.
One of the most important things LGBT study abroad students must remember is to stay positive. All study abroad students have good days and bad days, and this will be true for LGBT study abroad students too. It is easy to get discouraged when faced with ingrained negativity toward the LGBT community or laws and policies that restrict individual freedoms, but students must keep in mind that their time abroad is limited. Experiencing oppression or discrimination first hand can be an eye-opening opportunity for learning, and one that may propel their studies (or even future career) back at home.
During the challenging times, LGBT study abroad students should seek out support from their friends and family back home, and always remember why they decided to study abroad in the first place.
Find LGBT Community Resources & Support
In order for LGBT students to feel safe, supported, and welcome during their time abroad, it is important that they seek out LGBT supporters in their host country. In most cities around the world, and especially at universities, there are a plethora of LGBT organizations, support resources, forms of media, meeting places, and social groups that LGBT students can connect with during their study abroad program. Getting involved in their host country and meeting local LGBT students and community members will help students feel like they have a support network close by if they ever need help.
GoAbroad is dedicated to providing every LGBT student, and every student for that matter, with the tools, knowledge, and confidence they need to study abroad. Therefore, we’d like to introduce our LGBT Guide to Study Abroad, a comprehensive resource that every LGBT student, study abroad office, program provider, and everyone in between, can utilize to make sure every LGBT student has the information they need to have a successful study abroad experience.
Want more information and advice? Download GoAbroad's Complete LGBT Student Guide to Study Abroad now.