If you identify as LGBTQ and plan to study abroad, find ways to prepare yourself for a different culture and its ideas about gender and sexual identity.
You may already identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or queer student, or you may still be exploring your identity. In either case, you will find that the social climate, laws, and personal interactions of other cultures will often differ from the U.S. (and California/San Diego in particular). While researching study abroad programs and preparing for departure, it is important to reflect on the culturally based ideas and definitions of gender and sexual identity. Consider carefully how your identity as a LGBTQ person may influence your relationships with host nationals, your cultural adjustment, and your overall education abroad experience.
Learn About Your Host Country Before You Go
In some cultures, Western understandings of "gay" and "straight" don't exist, or don't carry the same importance as they do in the U.S. People involved in same-sex relationships may not see this as an identity. In other cultures, there are active social movements for civil rights for sexual and gender minorities. In preparing for your study abroad experience, it is important for you to research the LGBTQ climate of the country you will be visiting.
If you are open about your gender, sexual identity and/or gender expression, consider the following as you research potential study abroad countries:
- The culture of a country might make you feel like you are either "sent back into the closet" or, in countries that are more progressive than the US, freer to express yourself.
- If your host country is NOT progressive or accepting of the LGBTQ community, make sure you understand the political climate and consider your personal safety before confronting this way of thinking.
If you are not open about your gender and/or sexual identity, along with the above, consider the following as you research potential study abroad countries:
- Some countries will make it easier for you to come out; make sure that you have a support network during this time.
- If you are not public about your identity, realize that finding that community will be a bit more difficult while abroad. Finding groups or organizations before you go is essential. Check out the links in the campus and international resources sections.
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