Skip To Content




LGBTQ Students Abroad

Studying abroad is a wonderful growth opportunity: you get the chance to experience a new culture, absorb a new language, and find a new identity as a global citizen. This could include expressing your sexual and gender identity in new ways.

Cross-cultural challenges

Assimilating into a new culture means facing new challenges — and this is true for all students who study abroad. A further layer of complexity often confronts the LGBTQ student, who must uncover local mores regarding their sexual identity. Local attitudes in your host country can heavily influence the abroad experience for you, as an LGBTQ student.

It’s helpful to approach expressing your sexual and gender identity as just another cross-cultural challenge.

Learn about your host culture before you go

Attitudes and tolerance toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people vary widely, even within the U.S. Some countries are more welcoming and legally protective than the U.S., while others may be less accepting. All students need to be aware of the legal issues related to sexuality in other countries. LGBTQ students need to be especially informed regarding the receptivity and social climate of their host country.

Before you go abroad, find out what kinds of legal rights LGBT persons have in your host country. For example, in some countries, homosexuality is illegal. You’ll also want to research what kinds of behavior are appropriate for friendship and dating. Two people of the same gender kissing or holding hands often has a different meaning abroad than it does in the U.S.  (Find more great information on the Diversity Abroad website.)

Before you leave the U.S., learn as much as possible about the culture-specific norms of friendship and dating for relationships between people of any sexual orientation. Become informed and be aware of the attitudes, customs, and laws of your host country. Keep them in mind so you can have a safe and rewarding experience abroad.

  • No matter where you're headed, it's important to inform yourself of important safe sex practices, and learn about sexual safety abroad.

Finding friendly people and places

LGBTQ life exists just about everywhere, but the degree to which it's visible varies widely. As you get to know people and places in your host country, you'll probably want to search out welcoming institutions and hangouts. Contact with local support networks and LGBTQ communities can help ease your transition and provide a base to explore your sexual identity in the host culture.


Image: SDSU pride center logo The Pride Center Serving SDSU's LGBTQ CommunityCampus resources

sdsu study abroad. explore. discover.

Transgender TSA tips

TSA body searches can present potentially serious concerns for transgender people, who can be outed against their will or face bias and harassment. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) acknowledges concerns that members of the transgender community might have regarding security screening processes at U.S. airports. Find travel tips that explain the various screening processes and technologies travelers may encounter at security checkpoints.

Watch YouTube video

Image: Transgender student on YouTube

Studying abroad is one of many ways that students can learn about and meet members of the LGBT community and their allies around the world. IES Abroad contributed to the It Gets Better Project to help spread the message to LGBT young people that a bright future is in store for them. Watch their YouTube video.

5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-5101