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LGBTQ Students

Information and Resources for LGBTQ students

Studying abroad is an opportunity that many AU students eagerly anticipate.  For all students, it is a rewarding and life changing time to learn about a new culture and to study in a foreign classroom.  For students that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), it’s important to carefully consider study abroad program options and know that various countries around the world have different perspectives on the LGBTQ community.  Conducting research before choosing a program, as well as spending time to prepare yourself before leaving is essential to having a successful study abroad semester.  On this page AU Abroad has gathered some things to think about as well as a list of resources you can use as you prepare to study abroad.  

Things To Consider

Cultural Differences Abroad

All students experience cultural differences when they study abroad.  From different food, different languages, and different traffic patterns, you will encounter cultural nuances on a daily basis while abroad.  In many places , expression of gender identity and sexual orientation is more open than what you are used to at AU and in the USA.  In other places, however, homosexuality is illegal and expressing your sexual orientation or gender identity could pose legal and/or safety risks.  It’s crucial that you research local laws and cultural norms and take time to think about your safety and health.  You will learn to balance the local norms along with how comfortable you feel opening up to new people during your semester abroad. 

Some good things to research are:

  • What are the attitudes towards the LGBTQ community in my host country?
  • What laws govern the LGBTQ community in my host country?
  • Are there norms and behavioral expectations within the LGBTQ community in my host country?
  • What resources are available in my host country?
  • Are there any LGBTQ-friendly establishments in my host city?
  • Are there any LGBTQ newspapers, magazines, or on-line resources available in my host country?

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • How open do I want to be about my sexuality and gender identity when I’m abroad? 
  • Do I want to be open about my sexuality and/or gender identity with my host family/professors/local friends/others that I meet?

Interpersonal Relationships Abroad

Cultures vary widely in terms of what is considered appropriate behavior and how sexual identities are defined and understood.  Often initial behavioral signals you see (eye contact, a smile, touching) may mean something different than what you are used to in the United States.  For example, in many Middle Eastern cultures, holding hands among men is simply a sign of a special friendship and does not imply a homosexual relationship.  In other countries like the Netherlands, a much wider range of gender identities and expressions are visible and accepted.

Housing

When students study abroad, the housing options can vary greatly from homestays, to dorms, to independent living in apartments.  Be sure that you research housing options and that your selected program has a housing situation that will make you comfortable.  Some programs place students in home-stay or housing situations so that they may be more immersed in the local host culture. Many LGBTQ individuals have had great success being matched with supportive and open-minded host families.  It is important that all students are aware of and consider the implications of being identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the host-culture and how coming out might affect the host-family relationship.  In order to be placed in a supportive environment, be sure to talk with your study abroad program coordinator before departure.   Many LGBTQ individuals have had great success being matched with supportive and open-minded host families.  

Rainbow Scholarship for LGBTQ Students to Study Abroad

This scholarship is hosted by the Fund for Education Abroad and will be awarded to a deserving LGBTQ student who aims to participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program. This scholarship is made possible by the generous support of a group of international education professionals who are committed to advocating on behalf of LGBTQ students.  See: http://fundforeducationabroad.org/applicants/

Resources

The AU Abroad Office can advise you on your study abroad options and help you find the right program for your major and personal goals.  Tel: 202-885-1320 or auabroad@american.edu

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion at AU can help you get ready to study abroad. Please visit their office to ask questions and to seek advice about living abroad. Their office is located in the Mary Graydon Center Room 201. Tel: 1-202-885-3651 or cdi@american.edu

The RAINBOW SIG (Special Interest Group of NAFSA: Association of International Educators) is a group of professionals in the field of international education.  They can counsel and support LGBTQ study abroad students and provide a lot of valuable information and resources on their website. Also, read through the archives of their SIGnals Newsletters to read stories from study abroad students and administrators about their experiences abroad.

The OutRight Action International protects and advances the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.  A U.S. based non-profit organization, OutRight responds to human rights violations around the world through documentation, advocacy, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association is a world-wide federation of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.  ILGA focuses public and government attention on cases of discrimination by supporting programs and protest actions, asserting diplomatic pressure, providing information, and working with international organizations and media.

The National Center for Transgender Equality provides air travel tips for transgender people who have endured the increased scrutiny, harassment, and discrimination while trying to travel due to the heightened airport security.

The University of California Education Abroad Program has a website that lists important things to consider prior to studying abroad.

Damron offers a searchable online database of worldwide gay and lesbian travel listings, including accommodations, hotels, resorts, bars, nightclubs, and more.