There are many different factors for all students to think about when choosing a study abroad program, and LGBTQ+ students may have unique questions and concerns. Living abroad will open up opportunities to think about LGBTQ+ identity in a whole new context. It can represent a second “coming out” and you will need to make decisions about how and when to express your LGBTQ+ identity. It is helpful to think about what kind of support may be available to you in your new environment.
Is Study Abroad for You?
We think there is a study abroad program for all students, but this is a question we ask all students to consider. Study abroad can satisfy degree requirements and students often say that their time abroad was one of the most enjoyable parts of their college career. While study abroad can be challenging, the experience can help you learn more about yourself.
As an LGBTQ+ student, you probably already navigate various cultural locations and spaces on a daily basis. This will serve you well as you think about studying abroad! LGBTQ+ students may find it easier to adapt and thrive abroad because of the need to navigate between and across different cultural groups right here in the United States.
Not sure where to begin? Contact Andy Quackenbush, Study Abroad Advisor. Andy is UW Study Abroad’s liaison to the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center (GSCC) and is glad to discuss any questions you might have.
LGBTQ+ Issues and Concerns
Countries and cultures view gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in many different ways. Some host cultures may be more welcoming and accepting of LGBTQ+ identities than in the United States, but others may have laws that restrict the freedoms of LGBTQ+ people.
Gender norms vary from country to country as well, and it is important to do research on those prior to departure. Learn the laws of your host country regarding LGBTQ+ issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of LGBTQ+ identity and community. If same-sex sexual behaviors are illegal in your host country and you are reported for engaging in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned. There are maps that include information on LGBTQ+ rights around the world to explore. Regardless of the laws of your host country, it is always important to research whether an environment is affirming to LGBTQ+ people. Many of our past students have had very positive experiences abroad. Take some time to check out the comments on this page from your fellow Badgers.
Things to Consider
It is helpful to think carefully about your goals for study abroad.
- How important is it to go somewhere that is very accepting and affirming of your identity?
- What if you are interested in a location that openly discriminates against LGBTQ+ individuals? Some students may find that their ideal program is in a less welcoming place. This could lead to a challenging experience that also provides the opportunity for better understanding of your own identity.
- How might other parts of your identity affect your experience?
Get to know your destination before you leave. Explore LGBTQ+ travel guides and internet resources to get a better idea of social norms and customs of your host country.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, the GSCC, and/or your Study Abroad Advisor when choosing a study abroad program:
- What are the cultural and local attitudes towards Americans, tourists and sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country?
- What is the attitude of the police towards LGBTQ+ visitors?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country?
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others?
- The LGBTQ+ population is often misunderstood by others- to what degree am I comfortable with educating others and dispelling myths?
- Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation or gender identity?
- How will my social media usage, including past posts, be perceived by people in my host country?
- How important is it to me to find other students and friends who share my identity while abroad? How will I make connections with other LGBTQ+ students, local residents, or community organizations?
- Are there LGBTQ+ friendly establishments nearby? How can I find them?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones? Will I be able to legally carry any medications and supplies into my host country? Will I need any additional documentation? Are they available in my host country if I need to get more?
Be sure to review our page on Gender Abroad for more information for transgender students.
Gender and Sexuality Campus Center
UW Madison International Safety and Security Director’s Information on LGBTIQ Travel Abroad
Department of State LGBTI Travel Information
Diversity Abroad: LGBTQ+ Students Abroad
The Rainbow Scholarship awards deserving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) students who aim to participate in high-quality, rigorous education abroad programs.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex Association
A world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for GLBT people everywhere
An online journal documenting the travels of LGBT individuals around the world
A worldwide directory to help gay locals and tourists find places to stay and to go
National Center for Transgender Equality
Social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
Spartacus World’s Gay Travel Index
This website ranks all of the countries in the world in terms of LGBT travel friendliness.
We ask students to share their experiences on how various parts of their identity impacted them while they were abroad in their program evaluations. Below are tips and advice given by Badgers about their individual experiences and thoughts. These do not represent all experiences in a location. Our staff is happy to talk with you about any questions you may have.
Tips from your fellow Badgers about being LGBTQ+ in…