Student Info

Study abroad can be a transformative experience for LGBTQ students. Many students who studied abroad have reported gaining confidence in their sexual orientation as they explored another LGBTQ community and reflected on their experiences. This guide is designed to assist students as they consider and plan for studying abroad and provide information about study abroad providers, locations, and behaviors to ensure that students have a safe and exceptional experience abroad.

Check out more interviews from students at:

Questions to ask about the destination

  • What are gender relations like in your host culture?
  • What are the laws and cultural norms surrounding relationships and dating?
  • What laws govern the LGBTQ community in your host country?
  • What are social and cultural attitudes towards the LGBTQ community?
  • What may make the coming out process different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
  • Are there any safety considerations to be aware of?
  • What is the attitude of the local police towards LGBTQ visitors?
  • Are sexual orientations and gender identity openly discussed or more taboo in the host country?
  • How are public displays of affection (both heterosexual and homosexual) viewed by the host culture?

Questions to ask about the host program

  • How LGBTQ-friendly is the host institution?
  • What types of housing are available?
  • Is my program able to make accommodations, including
    • single rooms,
    • private bathrooms
    • certain roommates?
  • Are there LGBTQ friendly establishments near the program facilities?
  • Can and will the program staff help you identify them?
  • Does the study abroad program discuss LGBTQ considerations during
  • If you regularly use health and counseling services at home, will these be available abroad? Will you need them abroad?

Questions to ask about yourself

  • How open do you want/need to be about your sexual orientation while abroad with friends, professors, and host family and program staff?
  • Do you want/need to be a part of a supportive LGBTQ community?
  • Are there organizations available for this?
  • If you were to travel to a location where you would need to hide your sexual orientation due to safety concerns in the host country, how would this impact your overall study abroad experience?
  • Are there situations where you would not disclose your sexual identity?
  • How will you meet other sexual minority students while abroad?
  • How important is this to you?
  • Will you disclose your sexual orientation prior to arrival with your host family or wait until you know them to decide how to proceed?

LGBTQ Friendly Destinations

Perceptions of LGBTQ communities vary from culture to culture. While you may have heard about the less-welcoming countries, there are countries on nearly every continent where LGBTQ communities are accepted, providing these students with a plethora of study abroad options across the globe. The Pew Research Center conducted research on LGBTQ-friendly destinations, some of which are listed below.

LGBTQ Communities in Popular Study Abroad Locations

Colleges of the Fenway students have studied abroad in countless different locations and reported what their experiences were like where they studied. You can also find tips from past participants throughout this guide. Additionally, the University of South Florida’s “LGBTQ Student Guide for Education Abroad” offers narratives for several other destinations.

Friendliest Destinations

  • Spain
  • Germany
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Australia
  • France
  • Britain
  • Argentina
  • Italy
  • Philippines

Encountering Differences While Abroad

As you spend more time in your host culture, you will likely become more accustomed to the cultural cues that surround you. If the host language is one you do not speak proficiently, you may spend a great deal of time in your first few weeks abroad getting used to the language, signs and sounds of your new country. Whatever your sexual orientation, you are likely to encounter differences – ranging from food to ways of dressing to traditions and customs. Learning to navigate these visible differences will also help you be successful in navigating the differences surrounding issues involving sexual orientation.

It is likely that, if you travel abroad with a faculty-led course or with a third-party study abroad provider, you will have ready access to information about LGBTQ cultural attitudes, norms and resources. This information may come with your pre-departure orientation materials or be presented during your in-country orientation. If you find that you are not given this information prior to leaving your home campus, you may wish to check in with your study abroad director about gender relations and additional resources for your host country.

You will always have the choice whether you wish to be out or not while you are abroad. Most programs are interested in supporting your choices, and you can let them know if you have questions about local resources, how to talk with your host family, or safe space locations. If you encounter challenges while abroad, your program director or on-site staff are there to help you. They are likely to have suggestions that take your situation and the local culture into consideration.

In case of the most difficult situations abroad, know that the US embassy or consulate will be able to help you. Consular officers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offer emergency assistance to American citizens traveling and studying abroad. Your privacy will be protected and the officers will not make generalizations, assumptions, or pass judgments. More information is available on the U.S. Government’s travel advisory website under US Passport “Before You Go”.
Click here to learn more.

Global Gay Rights

Laws governing LGBTQ relationships and sexual activity differ from country to country and U.S. Citizens must abide by the laws of their host country. Knowing these laws may help you decide what countries you might like to visit if you will be out abroad.

You should be informed about specific laws pertaining to sexual identity, including:

  • the legality of same-sex sexual behavior;
  • the age of consent; restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQ people
  • anti-discrimination laws

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) offers information on the legal issues around the world concerning LGBTQ rights.