LGBTQ+ Students Off-Campus

Just as in the U.S., attitudes and understanding of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues vary by region. Most LGBTQ+ travelers encounter no problems when overseas, but it helps to prepare before you go. Students who identify as LGBTQ+ should research their destination and talk with Off-Campus Programs office and program staff about the cultural norms and LGBTQ+ rights and issues in their location.

LGBTQ+ life exists almost everywhere, but the degree to which it is visible at first glance varies. In some countries, LGBTQ+ individuals are protected and have equal rights in their society. There are other places where identifying as LGBTQ+ openly is punishable by law, or there may be no laws to protect an individual from hate crimes. While Lawrence University affirms those who identify as LGBTQ+, the resources and tips below are intended to help navigate spaces that are outside of our campus and the U.S. Remember, U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of their host country. It will ultimately be up to you to strike the balance between being true to yourself while staying safe in your particular context.  It is important to be open to different opportunities and be respectful of locally acceptable behavior. It is advised that you research your host country so you know local cultural views, resources, and legal protections that may impact your experience.

You may find that you can be more open about your identity than in the U.S., or that you would need to hide your sexual or gender identity completely to avoid cultural ostracism or arrest. Understanding this will help you decide where you would, or would not, want to study.

Always put your safety first, and find a support network while you are abroad. If you experience difficulties, you should contact your program staff immediately.  Lawrence’s Off-Campus Programs office is also available to help or listen.  Be as open and honest as you can with your study abroad advisor and program staff so they can tell you about specific resources or issues that might be valuable for you.

Questions you should ask include:

  • Are there laws regarding sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression in my host country? How can I navigate these laws? Should I consider this country for study abroad?
  • Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad?
  • What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
  • What kinds of LGBTQ resources are there in my host country?
  • What kinds of LGBTQ resources are available from my program provider or onsite staff?
  • Is there a united, visible LGBTQ community in my host country/city? What are some ways members of these diverse communities represent themselves within the wider society?
  • What are the housing options in this program?  Do I have questions for my program regarding housing such as their expectations surrounding inclusion and safety of homestay host families?

Additional Resources:

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