LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Resource Guide
This guide can be a resource for LGBTQ+ students who want to study abroad. Learn about programs, the friendliest countries for LGBTQ+ people, and more.
Updated June 25, 2022
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- Studying abroad as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be an unparalleled experience.
- Choosing a program and country friendly to LGBTQ+ students requires thoughtful research.
- Each study abroad program offers a unique political and cultural climate.
- Housing and the host family are parts of the journey that require careful consideration.
Studying abroad is a life-changing opportunity for college students around the world.
LGBTQ+ students should be able to benefit from these opportunities equally. Because U.S. students are subject to the laws of the country they are visiting, knowing the legal landscape and inclusive attitudes is important.
This guide provides a resource for LGBTQ+ students. They can evaluate options and gain a vision of what their life will look like as a student in a different country.
Choosing a Study Abroad Program
The benefits of a study abroad program include increased cultural competency and experiential learning and language skills. College students can also build a network of friends and classmates that endures long past the trip.
With those benefits in mind, LGBTQ+ students also have important things to evaluate and consider prior to departure.
The search for the right study abroad program can be a challenge. Finding a program with a reputable LGBTQ+ center can help provide resources for discussing concerns.
Many colleges provide LGBTQ+ centers in person and/or online. These centers have many tools for navigating the emotional and practical decisions of studying abroad as a LGBTQ+ student.
If your college does not have a good LGBTQ+ center, this College Experience Guide for LGBTQ+ Students may be a helpful resource.
The topic of sexual orientation can vary depending on the country. Educating yourself on the current cultural and political climate of the foreign city you will live in is important. You can learn the safest ways to express your authentic self while studying abroad.
Living With a Host Family
Some study abroad programs provide dorm rooms for students on a campus. However, many study abroad opportunities include the additional cultural experience of living with a host family.
The study abroad program has a responsibility to provide LGBTQ+ students with a host family accepting and accommodating of all sexual orientations and gender expressions.
Having a conversation in advance with people at the study abroad program you choose is vital. They should know how important it is to you to be able to live as your authentic self while studying abroad. And the host family's inclusivity will be a large part of that experience.
Different cultures have varying levels of respect for privacy. Our Trans and Nonbinary Student Resource Guide has talking points for gender issues you might face at home or abroad.
One way to help ensure a host family is friendly to LGBTQ+ students is to ask the program for host family references. Connecting with previous study abroad students to determine what their experiences were with the host family can be reassuring.
If you have concerns about staying with a particular family, a new host family can be arranged before you arrive.
9 Friendliest Countries for LGBTQ+ Students
The first country to legalize same-sex marriage, The Netherlands is considered to be a progressive and tolerant location for study and work. There are countless LGBTQ+-friendly nightlife options, restaurants, and hotels in the capital city of Amsterdam. Every July, the streets and canals of the city are packed for one of the most popular Pride events in the world — the Amsterdam Gay Pride festival.
Canada legalized same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, becoming the first country outside Europe to do so. On various lists, Canada ranks among the safest countries for LGBTQ+ travelers. As students evaluate top institutions within Canada, one option is the University of Western Ontario, which has a university-based queer resource center.
Denmark has a long history of progressive culture and is seen as a trailblazer when it comes to inclusive values. This makes it a popular destination for students looking to connect with organizations and programs in a country considered to be one of the happiest in the world. Looking for festivals? Denmark's capital is home to MIX Copenhagen, a LGBTQ+ film festival. The country also hosts a pride festival each year.
Two of the most popular cities in Spain — Madrid and Barcelona — are known for their vibrant LGBTQ+ communities and prominent universities. Spain regularly ranks as one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries. Spain was 10 years ahead of the United States in legalizing same-sex marriage.
In 2010, Argentina legalized marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. Protections for transgender laws were enacted in 2012. Buenos Aires boasts the March of Pride in November, making it a city where LGBTQ+ students can encounter a friendly atmosphere.
The Equality Act of 2010 protects LGBTQ+ rights. The United Kingdom is often considered one of the most liberal places in the world for LGBTQ+ people. Transgender people have legal protections, and same-sex couples can adopt and enter civil partnerships. Many universities in the United Kingdom offer cultural hubs of community and inclusivity.
Sweden is viewed as one of the safest countries for the LGBTQ+ community, with progressive attitudes toward same-sex marriage and adoption rights. Sweden is also known for its transgender inclusivity, becoming the first country to legalize changing genders after reassignment surgery and provide free hormone therapy in the 1970s. Swedish universities also create welcoming environments.
The three islands in the Mediterranean known as Malta provide constitutional levels of protection for the LGBTQ+ community. Valletta, a small town and capital of Malta, is widely recommended by tourists and locals.
In Uruguay, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013. Several pride events, such as Marcha por la diversidad in October and Punta Pride in February, are lively celebrations of the queer community.
LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Programs
Aug. 24-Dec. 4, 2022 — This program gives students the opportunity to visit places like the International Gay and Lesbian Archives and Information Center. Amsterdam is the ideal location to explore LGBTQ+ issues as students meet with activists, academics, and professional sex workers. There is also a two-week excursion to Morocco, providing students with the Muslim perspective on gender and sexuality.
There is a novice track for students who have taken courses or have a background in sexuality or gender studies. An advanced track is available for those students with a major or minor in women's studies, sexuality, gender, or queer studies.
Spring 2023 — The location is idyllic, with 200 lakes, castle ruins, and bike paths. Choose from courses in the humanities — from Culture, Identity, and Traditions in Sweden to Peace and Development Studies. Organizations are often student-run, with a variety of trips, cultural immersion activities, and events for LGBTQ+ students. Eligibility is open to all students in their junior year or above, with a 3.0 GPA.
Fall 2022, Spring 2023 — With the option to take LGBTQ+-centered courses, such as Queer Studies and LGBTQ Life in London, the CAPA Global Cities Program broadens horizons to an international perspective on LGBTQ+ issues. With both in- and out-of-classroom educational offerings, this program encourages students to truly explore the diversity of the surrounding areas.
Planning on Fall 2022 but closely monitoring COVID-19 — At the University of New South Wales, courses are taught from a non-Western frame of reference. Take classes such as Art, Gender, and Sexuality and Gender and Queer Critiques. In the cosmopolitan and multicultural city of Sydney, there are endless exploration opportunities — from the beaches to the Sydney Opera House to the museums and thriving nightlife. This program plans to open for fall 2022, depending on the current state of COVID-19.
Spring 2023 — At Victoria University of Wellington, students have a wide range of course offerings. Wellington is the vibrant, cultural, and political center of New Zealand. Wellington welcomes people from all walks of life from around the world. The 140-plus clubs and societies at Victoria University of Wellington contribute to a lively community on its campus.
LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Scholarships
Rainbow Scholarship (Deadline: Mid-January)
Award Amount: Up to $10,000 — The Rainbow Scholarship supports LGBTQ+ students pursuing a rigorous study abroad program. Each applicant must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or DACA student and must self-identify on the Fund for Education Abroad scholarship application. The study abroad program must be a minimum of four weeks and be eligible for credit.
Point Scholarship (Deadline: Nov. 1 to mid-January)
Award Amount: Varied — LGBTQ+ students can apply for the Point Scholarship, which also provides leadership development programs, a network of alumni, and a community of scholars and mentors. Applicants must be enrolled or intending to enroll at an accredited college or university and be "out" as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Fund for Education Abroad (Deadline: Nov. 1 to mid-January)
Award Amount: Up to $5,000 — The J. Scott Van Der Meid Memorial Scholarship, awarded through the Fund for Education Abroad, is awarded to support students in the LGBTQ+ community or from diverse ethnic, cultural, or faith backgrounds. J. Scott Van Der Meid was an innovator of advising strategies for underrepresented students and worked as an associate dean of study abroad at Brandeis University.
API Diversity Scholarship (Deadlines: Fall-June 10, spring-Oct. 30, summer-April 1)
Award Amount: $1,500 to $3,000 — One of the scholarships available through Academic Programs International (API) is the Diversity Scholarship. It is possible to receive it for the academic year, quarter/semester, or summer. Geared toward supporting students in API programs with diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ+ students are encouraged to apply.
Gamma Mu Scholarship (Deadline: March 31)
Award Amount: $1,000 to $2,500 — The Gamma Mu Scholarship is designated each year for a gay man under 35 years of age who is admitted to an accredited university.
Starting in 2016, the organization began identifying two additional students from the broader LGBTQ+ community to receive The Folisi & Goodwin Scholarship in Memory of Ray Williams and The Phil Papel Memorial Scholarship.
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LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Resources
OutRight is a worldwide organization committed to advancing human rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in all countries. As a direct partner with allies and human rights organizations on the ground, OutRight aims to provide reliable data for LGBTQ+ people around the world.
The ILGA provides legal information and visual guides that serve as excellent resources when evaluating international travel options. ILGA's interactive map, with up-to-date sexual orientation laws across the globe, is a must-see for students looking to study abroad.
One of the biggest issues transgender students face in their study abroad expedition is the travel. The National Center for Transgender Equality website outlines the civil liberties each individual has during the travel process, including a "know your rights" section on airport security.
The U.S. Department of State outlines advice on its website for staying safe while abroad. There are sections on updating a passport to match gender identity, packing important documents, and many other resources for research into the laws and customs of foreign countries as they relate to inclusion.
This website provides information on international LGBTQ+ events and activities. The "travel proud" section is an excellent resource for events, nightlife, and hotels around the world that provide an unmatched experience for the LGBTQ+ community.