Study abroad can be quite an intimidating idea to approach, but an entirely worthwhile challenge to take on no doubt. For LGBT students, study abroad comes with a host of additional considerations, so it is time to lay it all out on the table and simplify the process, so you can make it happen! From finding a study abroad program to funding your trip to tips for arrival, here is a step-by-step process of how to study abroad as an LGBT student and a host of resources to help you along the way:
1. Visit Your University’s LGBT Center
Nearly every college or university campus has one, though it may be called a variety of names. Every LGBT student should visit their campus LGBT Center to get some basic advice on how to best approach the topic of study abroad with their advisors and how to prepare themselves for the challenges that study abroad may present. LGBT Center staff can speak from their own experiences abroad, or provide you with contact information for LGBT students who are study abroad alumni, among other things.
If your institution is small enough that there is no designated center for LGBT students, check out these online resources available through other institutions:
- GoAbroad’s Complete Guide to LGBT Study Abroad
- MSU - Study Abroad for LGBT Students Resource Page
- IES Abroad Diversity Resources
- Northwestern University Study Abroad - LGBTQ Students Abroad Page
2. Talk to your International Office or a Study Abroad Advisor
After you’ve prepared yourself to discuss the topic on a larger scale, and considered your ability to face immersing yourself in a completely unfamiliar place, it is time to talk to a study abroad advisor and visit your campus’ international office. The team of student advisors in your international education office will be able to give you information on the basics of studying abroad, the breadth of programs available to you, transferability of academic credits, semester options, location-specific information, and travel advice.
Embrace all the information you receive, take time to review all the opportunities that fit your academic goals, and discuss possibilities with family, friends, and maybe even some other LGBT students you know who have studied abroad too. You can also read about LGBT study abroad student experiences through the NYU Student-to-Student Guide for LGBT Students.
3. Narrow Down Location Options
Now it is time to narrow down the locations that fit with your interests and attract you most. But before setting your heart on a location, be sure to consider safety issues, stance on the LGBT community, and possible language barriers. Make a list of locations you can’t wait to visit, and then look up information on each to give you a better idea of what type of challenges you would face there as well as positive characteristics you would be happy to immerse yourself in.
If you are having trouble getting started, begin by checking out some of the top destinations for LGBT study abroad.
4. Search for The Right Program
Once you have a much smaller list of location options, let’s say two to four possible destinations, you should begin looking through all the study abroad program opportunities in each location. Consider narrowing down your search by the semester you’d like your study abroad program to take place, your major or areas of interest, and the structure you’d like to have to your program follow.
Next you should look over the inclusions and benefits of each individual program. Do they include excursions? What type of housing arrangements are available and will you feel comfortable with the accommodation provided? Will you have meals prepared for you? How much money will you need to budget for your own personal expense and how much of your daily costs of living will be covered? These are all essential questions every student must consider before selecting a study abroad program.
5. Check out Scholarship Opportunities
There are a number of scholarships specifically for LGBT study abroad, created to help support LGBT students who want to expand their education abroad. However, there are also hundreds more study abroad scholarships that are open to all students interested in going abroad, whether for a semester or even a full year. Check out GoAbroad’s full Study Abroad Scholarship directory, which will help you narrow down opportunities that apply to your plans abroad.
6. Read up on your Location of Interest
Now that you have selected your program, it is time to read up on your new home as much as possible! Find out all the ins and outs, insider tips, advice from past study abroad alumni, and everything in between so you are as prepared as possible. Make sure there isn’t anything you missed about your location of interest, or your program for that matter, that is a deal breaker for you.
Can’t find the information you are looking for? Check out these major LGBT travel resources:
- The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association
- U.S. Department of State LGBTQ Travel Information
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK - LGBT Foreign Travel Advice
7. Apply & Finalize Your Trip
Congrats! You are now ready to apply for your study abroad program and make your dream a reality! Keep in close contact with your study abroad office, your academic advisors, and your host university or program provider, so you can keep up to date on the status of your application and program arrangements.
Time to start making your packing list and getting your flight and visa sorted out! The most important thing is to stay calm, organize your list of “things to do before you leave”, and remember to keep an open mind. You are about to embark on what may be one of the most life-changing experiences of your life, so take time to mentally prepare yourself for a completely new way of life and outlook on the world.
9. Arriving & Adjusting
Upon arrival, you will surely feel a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. It is completely normal to go through a period of adjustment, also known as culture shock. If you are prepared for it to happen, it will be much easier to overcome. Do your best to embrace and learn about the local way of life, instead of criticizing it, and maximize every opportunity for cultural immersion.
Seek out local organizations, events, or venues that are specifically catered to LGBT students or the local LGBT community in general. These will prove to be a great place to meet other LGBT students and locals, socialize in a comforting environment, and provide you will a place to learn more about the LGBT community in your host country.