If you are considering a study abroad experience, you may be worried about attitudes regarding the LGBTQ+ community in your host country. As with the United States, attitudes regarding the LGBTQ+ community vary from country to country and region to region. We at the CGE want all of our Marymount students to have an exciting, fun, and fulfilling study abroad experience and encourage our LGBTQ+ students to go abroad safely. To do this, we recommend doing some research on your prospective host country to see how gender, sexuality, and identity are regarded abroad.
While abroad, you may find that there are differences in interactions between men and women that vary culture to culture, city to city. Some gender roles may be more strict or more fluid which may cause you to reflect on the best way to express yourself. Depending on a location, you may feel more comfortable expressing yourself or you may choose to be more reserved with your identity. Some people may be interested in learning more about your identity with sincere interest, but there may also be instances where you may not feel comfortable sharing your identity. Depending on location, your sexuality or identity may not be legal or widely accepted so it is important to be well-informed about your host country’s laws and the laws of other countries you may plan to visit.
Although you should be prepared if a situation arises, you should not go abroad expecting discrimination. Study abroad is a life-changing experience for students of diverse backgrounds where you will learn much about others and yourself, so do not let these limit your experiences. Instead, we recommend coming up with action plans.
To help you prepare, we recommend asking yourself a few questions:
- Do I want to study abroad in a location where I can be open about my sexuality and/or identity or am I open to studying abroad in a country where I may not be able to be as open about these aspects of myself?
- What are my host country’s views on sexuality, gender, and sex?
- Are there any laws I should be aware of that intersect with my identity or sexuality?
- What are some of the ways I can find a community and support system in country?
- What type of housing should I consider for my study abroad program?
- What resources are available in my host country and host university or program for my community?
- What are typical expectations of men and women in my host country and how are they expected to dress? How could this impact me, my gender identity, or my sexual orientation?
- If I am considering a location where my sexuality or identity is not accepted or legal, how do I plan on staying mentally healthy and safe while also taking advantage of my study abroad program to get the most of my experience?
Here are some tips we recommend to prepare you to study abroad:
- If you feel comfortable sharing, let our office know about any concerns you may have about your identity and study abroad so we can better support you in your study abroad journey
- Remember that while abroad, you are subject to the laws of the host country so read up on your host country’s laws regarding the LGTBQ+ community, information sharing, and same-sex relationships.
- Learn some of the language regarding sexuality of your host country. Knowing some of the slang, gender-specific pronouns (or genderless pronouns), and proper terminology for the LGTBQ+ community will help you adjust while abroad.
- Try networking with other LGBTQ+ individuals in your host city before you go abroad, but also keep up with your friends back home so you have a community wherever you are
- When creating any reservation, we recommend you use the same name, gender, and birth date that is on your passport or whichever ID you plan to carry around
- Know that you do not have to speak for the whole community and do not feel pressured to do so.
- Remember that cultural norms are different in your host country so they may be less politically correct than people in the U.S. You can use these moments as teaching moments if you wish.
- Build a support system in-country that you can rely on including providers and The Center for Global Education. We are here to support you.
- If somebody says or does something that is offensive to you, try to distinguish between a person who is genuinely curious about you or someone who has bad intentions.
- if a situation makes you uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation. Always make your own safety your priority.