At Illinois, we encourage everyone to study abroad, welcoming students who identify as LGBTQ to explore their options.
Studying abroad is a unique opportunity to live in another culture, learn a second language, and transform yourself as a student, professional, citizen, and human being. In some countries, study abroad can provide an avenue for students to explore their own sexual orientation or gender identity. Some students even choose to come out for the first time while abroad!
Meeting your academic and extracurricular needs while studying abroad is a priority, but you should also evaluate the aspects of the environment that could affect how you express your sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ life exists almost everywhere, but the degree to which it's visible at first glance varies.
As you get to know people and your new environment, you may find a variety of welcoming organizations and establishments. However, every place in the world has different laws, policies, and cultural attitudes toward people who identify as or are perceived to be LGBTQ. It's important to take this into account when selecting a study abroad location and program so that you have a positive and satisfying experience.
Questions to Consider
When determining where you'd like to study abroad, be sure to ask yourself some very important questions.
- How open am I now, or am I willing to be, about my sexual orientation and gender identity?
- If I choose to come out while studying abroad, how will that be different from doing so in the U.S.?
- How important is it to me to find other LGBTQ students or friends while studying abroad, and how prepared am I to create these relationships?
- Are there resources available for LGBTQ people or LGBTQ-friendly establishments in the host country?
- What do I need to feel safe, and does this program offer this kind of support?
About Sexuality & Gender
- What are the local attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity?
- How are LGBTQ defined in the host culture?
- What are the expected gender relations and social patterns in the host country?
- What are the behavioral norms within the local LGBTQ community?
- Am I willing to abide by the cultural customs in the host country, or do I need to choose a different program?
About the Law & Local Attitudes
- What is the legality of same-sex sexual behavior? Are there any restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQ people?
- What is the age of consent for sexual behavior? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
- What are the laws regarding identity and travel documentation?
About Returning Home
- If you choose to come out while abroad, how will this affect you and your relationships upon your return?
- If you choose to conceal your sexual orientation or gender identity while abroad, what impact will this have on you upon your return?
- What resources are available to you upon your return to help you reintegrate?
- Explore LGBTQ travel guides and online resources.
- Meet with a Study Abroad Advisor or visit the LGBT Resource Center to discuss your questions or concerns.
- Talk with other LGBTQ students and allied peers about their experiences abroad.
- Connect with LGBTQ individuals living in the host community.
- Learn the laws of your host country regarding the LGBTQ community.
- Research LGBTQ advocacy organizations and LGBTQ-friendly establishments in the host country.
- Identify LGBTQ publications, news channels, and other media in the host country.
The following programs provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the LGBTQ community in countries around the world. It's important to note that these programs are often more expensive as they're managed by program providers or other institutions.
- Courses in Gender Studies in Latin America, Gender History in Latin America, and Latin American Societies: Social Movements (CEA Buenos Aires)
- Courses in Psychology of Human Sexuality, Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia, and Sex Education and Sexual Reform in Europe (DIS Copenhagen)
- International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender in the Netherlands (SIT)
- Thailand: Leading for LGBTQ+ Empowerment (University of Marlyand)
LGBTQ Identities & Study Abroad
- Diversity Abroad Destination Guides (Diversity Abroad Network)
- LGBT Student Guide to Studying Abroad (GoAbroad)
- Orientation for GLBT Students Studying Abroad (University of Minnesota)
- Rainbow Special Interest Group (NAFSA)
- Sexual and Gender Expression Abroad (CIEE)
- "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Around the World"
- "The 20 Most and Least Gay-Friendly Countries in the World"
- "6 Most LGBT-Friendly Countries in Latin America"
- "9 Major Life Lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT"
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
- LGBT Network (Amnesty International)
- LGBT Travel Information (U.S. State Department)
- OutRight Action International (IGLHRC)